Institute promotes work of Albert Schweitzer

By on February 15, 2006

The Albert Schweitzer Institute in Hamden works to spread the ideals and to continue pursuing works in the name of Albert Schweitzer’s guiding principle, which he called Reverence for Life.

Schweitzer was one of the world’s most well known and accomplished humanitarians. He was a man who could have done anything he wanted to do with his life and he chose to travel to Africa, build a hospital, and care for some of the world’s poorest and most forgotten people.

Until the age of 30, Schweitzer ‘indulged his intellect.’ He received doctorates in both philosophy and theology and was a practicing preacher. Schweitzer was not satisfied only speaking the good word, however. He wanted to live the good word. He made a promise to himself. At the age of 30, he would dedicate his life to ‘immediate service of his fellow man,” as his only child Rhena, would later write.

Schweitzer’s superior education and heart of compassion were not his only admirable traits though. He was an accomplished organ player, who began playing in his father’s church at the age of nine. He wrote a book on the works of Johann Sebastian Bach.

To say the least, Schweitzer was quite accomplished. On the day before his 30th birthday, he decided to begin studying medicine. A pamphlet for the Paris Mission Society came across his desk. Schweitzer wanted to travel with the mission, but as a doctor and not as a preacher. Thus, he enrolled in medical school.

The work of Schweitzer, honored through the Albert Schweitzer Institute connected to Quinnipiac University, is the work that came once Schweitzer decided to become a doctor. His missionary work brought him to Africa. This is where he would remain for the remainder of his life. He died in Lamberene, Africa, at the age of 90, having only left Lamberene for small parts of time.

When Schweitzer arrived in Lamberene, there were only patients. There were no buildings, but they were going to do all that they could. Schweitzer dedicated the rest of his life to building this hospital and treating as many people as possible, who before had no access to this kind of medical care.

It was in Lamberene that Schweitzer would develop his ethic and coin his phrase Reverence for Life. It is this idea that is the backbone of the Albert Schweitzer Institute. It was this principle that led him to win the Nobel Peace Prize for the year 1922.

The sole purpose of the A.S.I., led by Executive Director David Ives, is to spread the word and carry on the philosophies of Schweitzer’s Reverence for Life principle.

“Schweitzer stated that his theory of Reverence for Life fundamentally meant we are all life, amongst other life, struggling to survive,” Ives said. We must respect that we are all in a struggle to survive and we must help and respect that everything on this earth is in this same struggle.

Ives also points out that Schweitzer was primarily speaking and writing in German. The word that translates to ‘reverence’ in German, possibly better translates to the word ‘awe.’ With this said, Schweitzer was not only saying we should respect those we share the earth with, we should also be in admiration of those we share the earth with.

Ives and the Institute, in collaboration with Quinnipiac University, aim to accomplish this through seven core programs they are working on. Some include an International Rehabilitation Conference to explore and create awareness of the unmet needs of physically challenged people in the U.S. Central America and the Caribbean, a Humanitarian Values Conference to promote Schweitzer’s ideas and reintroduce him to the public, especially young adults, and spring break humanitarian projects in Central America and the Caribbean to provide humanitarian services that reflect the Quinnipiac University program strengths.

The A.S.I. has been instrumental in taking Quinnipiac students out of their comfort zones and into foreign lands where they can help people in underdeveloped nations.

The Institute has also brought guest speakers to the Quinnipiac campus such as Jane Goodall, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream fame, and the former President of Mexico, Dr. Ernesto Zedillo. These guest speakers, along with Nobel Peace Prize laureates Dr. Oscar Arias and Betty Williams have helped richen the learning environment at Quinnipiac University.

Upcoming events from the A.S.I. include one connected with the Program of Connecticut Society of Outdoor Education, which is entitled “NO CHILD LEFT INSIDE” on March 31. Also, another event aimed to raise awareness about the death penalty is “Dead Man Walking.”

The A.S.I. is a valuable resource for Quinnipiac University with honorary board members such as Jane Goodall and Schweitzer’s only daughter, Rhena Schweitzer Miller. The mantra of Reverence for Life and the ethical teachings to “escape whenever possible the necessity of living at the cost of another life,” make Schweitzer and the A.S.I. remarkable contributions toward a better world.


About William Bradley