Albert Schweitzer Institute inspires Quinnipiac

By on September 25, 2003

“A little girl died in my arms,” said David Ives to a packed house in Alumni Hall last year. This statement was not intended to shock the audience. Nor was it intended to upset them. It was intended to make them think, to open their eyes, and hopefully, to make them realize there are other people in the world beyond the borders of our nation. “It wasn’t very long before I felt her soul leave her body and there in the middle of the bay, I cried,” Ives continued, describing a Peace Corps mission he participated in.

Hired as the Executive Director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute, Ives brought this experience with him to Quinnipiac University in the fall of 2002. He spoke at the Affiliation Celebration and made clear his goals for the Institute. “We intend to be involved in programs in communities surrounding Quinnipiac and to initially begin our work in international settings in Central America and the English speaking Caribbean as early target areas for our involvement.” From the very beginning, it was clear that Ives came to Quinnipiac with a mission. However, the mission did not begin with Ives. It began many years ago with a man by the name of Albert Schweitzer.

Schweitzer was a born leader. By his twenties, he had three published books to his name. At the age of 30, he decided to become a doctor and dedicate his life to helping the people of Africa. In 1913, Schweitzer and his wife Helen built a hospital from the ground up. He began developing a new kind of philosophy which he called “Reverence for Life.” Schweitzer believed that mankind should always be aware of his impact on the earth, on animals, and on each other. He also encouraged people to take responsibility for their actions. “I cannot but have reverence for all that is called life,” Schweitzer wrote. “I cannot avoid compassion for everything that is called life. That is the beginning and foundation of morality.”

David Blanchard, a senior Mass Communications major, took a class last year entitled “The Life and Works of Albert Schweitzer.” Taught by David Ives and Philosophy professor Ben Page, the course gave students a glimpse into Schweitzer’s countless adventures around the world. “The class turned Schweitzer into a role model for me,” said Blanchard. “I really enjoyed the class and everything we read.”

Blanchard found the class inspiring and has since been motivated to act. Recently, he has begun planning an “Angel Tree” project for the Quinnipiac campus. After reading an article last winter, Blanchard learned about a lack of donations to the Salvation Army. In the past, the organization sponsored an “Angel Tree,” a Christmas tree adorned with the names of underprivileged children from the area. The children make a short list of presents they hope to receive for the holidays and attach it to one of the tree’s branches. Blanchard hopes to have an Angel Tree in the student center this holiday season. Students will be able to take a name from the list, purchase a gift, and have it delivered to the child.

“The professors and Schweitzer taught me to take initiative,” said Blanchard. “When I come up with ideas now, I act on them.” Craig Castagna, also a Mass Communications major in his last year at Quinnipiac, agreed with Blanchard. “Schweitzer changed the way I started thinking about the world,” said Castagna. “He changed how I live my life. My behavior towards other people has changed and I am more conscious of taking care of the environment.”

Castagna recalls stories about Schweitzer staying up all night writing. “There were nights when he would write for hours, put his head down on his desk, sleep for a half hour, wake up, then write the rest of the night,” said Castagna, laughing. “It’s definitely motivated me to study for my classes.”

At the Affiliation Celebration between the university and the Institute last year, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield spoke to a crowd of hundreds who treated the ice cream entrepreneurs to a rousing applause after they compared the country’s economic status to a handful of Oreo cookies. In April of 2002, Schweitzer’s daughter, Rhena Miller, visited Quinnipiac. She entertained a group of faculty with various stories about her father and the time she spent in Africa. This past week, the Institute held their annual Service Learning Fair where various nonprofit organizations from around the region come to recruit volunteers.

Since its inception here last year, the Institute has had great success. “The Institute opens doors for Quinnipiac students that normally wouldn’t be open,” said Blanchard. This is mostly due to the drive and experience of its director, David Ives. “He is 100 percent positive,” said Castagna. He is a great listener, very approachable, and works for the community. You walk into his office and he’ll listen to whatever you have to say.”


About George Sloan