HAMDEN—Quinnipiac University’s Albert Schweitzer Institute is changing leadership as its longtime director retires after years of humanitarian service.
The executive director and face of the institute, David Ives, will be leaving his role, and the university has named Sean Duffy, political science professor and chair of the institute’s advisory board, to succeed Ives. Duffy will step into the role Jan. 1, 2018 and Ives will be involved as emeritus director.
“For most people the Albert Schweitzer Institute is associated with David,” Duffy said. “He’s the personality behind that. I want to keep some of what he brought to it and the ability to relate across cultures. He exemplifies that and without losing the old I want to add a layer to the institute.”
Ives has served as executive director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute for 15 years and has also taught classes in international business, political science, philosophy, and Latin American studies at Quinnipiac. He also was instrumental in developing humanitarian programs in in Barbados, Guatemala and Nicaragua that still carry on through the office of Cultural and Global Engagement. Students of physical and occupational therapy, nursing, international business, teacher training, law, theater and communications participate in the trips every year.
“People say I took the kids into the world when I brought the world to Quinnipiac,” Ives said. “When I first came, I was told I would be wasting my time with Quinnipiac students, that they wouldn’t be interested. Now almost every trip is easily filled up.”
Several communities in Guatemala and Nicaragua now have schools and recreational facilities built by Quinnipiac students in cooperation with local communities, with hundreds of Quinnipiac students having participated in the humanitarian global service trips in Central America throughout the years. Many more students from around the world have attended the the Nobel Peace Laureates Summit meetings, which Ives was also a leader in developing. He has since taken students to summits in Berlin, Barcelona, Cape Town and Warsaw.
“It’s not enough to go paint a building,” Ives said. “You need to look at the whole village holistically. Look carefully at community support, making sure we’re doing what they want and not just what I wanted.”
Quinnipiac University Schweitzer Professor in Philosophy Anat Biletzki said the institute brings opportunities for faculty and students that open their eyes and Duffy has the same visionary attitude about teaching students that Ives had. Biletzki’s position as a Schweitzer professor means her work is connected with the vision and legacy of Albert Schweitzer.
“The Albert Schweitzer Institute has always been the place where humanitarianism starts, where a centered vision of peace and where the idea that we are citizens of the world and not just of our community or nation, but the world around us starts,” Biletzki said. “That’s what the Albert Schweitzer Institute has given Quinnipiac that no other university has.”
Ives’s legacy with the institute is long and his humanitarian efforts have never ceased. He was a nominee for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, serves as chairman of the U.S. board of directors of the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress and is the Emmy-winning executive producer of a documentary on the life of Albert Schweitzer, among many other roles.
“David is very human and humane, outgoing and empathetic,” Duffy said. “This is something we have to maintain. Everyone loves him because he is good at relating to people. It’s a challenge for me since I’m more of an academic, so I have to try hard to maintain that.”
In the years leading up to his retirement, Ives has helped Duffy transition into the role of executive director, but as far back as 2006 Duffy has been involved with the institute through global service trips where he was able to use his background as a research analyst at the U.S. Agency for International Development to explore how outsiders can be effective partners to foreign communities as they develop.
“He was so enthusiastic about his experience down there and the way he thinks and his empathy with others,” Ives said. “That’s not something you can really explain and sometimes hard to explain to people back home what the experience has been once you’ve observed everything that’s been going on.”
Duffy said he hopes to continue the international service trips in other parts of the world, taking students to the Peruvian highlands and building relationships with the communities living near Machu Picchu and along the coast. He also plans on continuing Schweitzer’s environmental legacy with new initiatives on campus.
“The environment is something I really feel passionate about,” Duffy said. “We’re past the early environmentalist regulation to the point the U.S. and worldwide are thinking how to restructure.” He said he wants to conducts a sustainability study on campus and have the Schweitzer Institute demonstrate to the community what sustainability can look like on a campus and in a town.
Duffy said he’s interested in regenerative agriculture, which means growing food that helps restore the environment instead of depleting it. He’d like to create a garden demonstrating sustainable gardening and show how to help communities feed themselves to foster better nutrition while engaging the university campus.
“Going back to when I was a child camping, for me an appreciation of environment and the world overlaps with Schweitzer and reverence,” Duffy said. “Human beings with strong will to live need to recognize others have that will to live and acknowledge and bring reverence.”
“Sean is a brilliant man in addition to being empathetic,” Ives said. “He’s very consistent with Albert Schweitzer with his reverence for all life.”
Ives retirement came as a result of health issues, as he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and ensuring he attends to his health to one day walk his daughter down the aisle. But he had “decidedly mixed feelings” about leaving the position.
“It was a dream job for me and I really think I helped put Quinnipiac on the international map,” he said. “I’ll miss mostly the students. I enjoyed watching them flower and blossom in things they never did before, engaging them in discussion. I think I helped the lightbulb go off in the mind of many Quinnipiac students and alumni.”