Jimmy Carter joins Albert Schweitzer board

By on February 8, 2006

Former U.S. President and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter has joined the honorary board of The Albert Schweitzer Institute, a Quinnipiac University-based organization that promotes voluntarism, ethics, and education.

A representative from the Atlanta-based The Carter Center sent a letter dated Jan. 17 to the institute saying the 81-year-old Carter accepted the honorary position, David T. Ives, executive director of the institute, said.

The institute offered the position to Carter in December. “His accepting it means a lot to the university because the Albert Schweitzer Institute wants to do good deeds around the world. And he (Carter) wants to promote the fact that Quinnipiac University is interested in doing those good deeds around the world,” Ives said.

The role of honorary board members is largely a symbolic one. Members’ names are used on the institute’s letterhead in an effort to increase the institute’s prominence, lend it credibility, and elicit funding from private organizations, Ives said.

The institute seeks well-known figures that have a deep commitment to helping the plight of the world’s poor in determining who to invite to its honorary board, Ives said. It especially seeks winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, which Schweitzer won in 1952 for his decades of work as a missionary doctor in the former French colony of Gabon.

In becoming an honorary board member, Carter joins such fellow peace prize winners as former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, Northern Irish peace activist Betty Williams, and American peace activist Jody Williams. The latter three have spoken at the university within the last three years about their work toward fostering peace.

Ives said that the prospect of getting Carter to speak at the university is low, as Carter has given few public speeches. But Ives said he will be in contact with The Carter Center, an organization dedicated to advancing human rights, with the hope of securing plans to bring the 39th U.S. president to the university.

The characteristics of Carter that Abbott finds most desirable are “his personal integrity and his consistent devotion to issues that concern all of humankind,” such as his work in eradicating diseases in Africa and monitoring elections in foreign nations.

“I don’t see how an ex-president could have behaved any better and done more good for humanity. He deserves his Nobel Peace Prize,” Ives said.

In November, Ives and other university members traveled to The Carter Center in Atlanta and interviewed Carter as part of a documentary about the life and work of Albert Schweitzer that was produced by Ives and communications professors Rebecca Abbott and Liam O’Brien. For Abbott, who filmed the interview, the experience of meeting a pillar of the humanitarian movement was thrilling.

“We realized that the person nowadays who really almost better than anyone exemplifies the kind of lifestyle and life of service that Albert Schweitzer did is Jimmy Carter,” Abbott said.

The Albert Schweitzer Institute began at Quinnipiac University in July 2001. Its initiatives include sending teams of students and faculty to Nicaragua and Barbados during spring break to perform humanitarian work and organizing conferences at the university in which leaders of the peace and humanitarian movements speak to the entire university community.


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