Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Bob Ives ’69 will retire at the end of the year. A beloved campus figure, Ives taught classes and supported Bowdoin’s student faith groups as well as individual students working on navigating their faith and spiritual life at the College.
Interacting with students and engaging with their questions surrounding religion and spirituality has been a highlight for Ives, who has held his position since 2013.
“[My favorite part has been] being with the students, working with them, sharing with them—just the discussions I’ve been able to have with them about navigating spiritual and religious life,” said Ives. “Dealing with questions like, ‘What makes life meaningful?’ ‘What makes life worth living?’ ‘what should I do to serve in this life in a meaningful kind of way?’—those types of discussions are always very thrilling and very important to me.”
Along with teaching his ever-popular Shaker box-making class, Ives played a large role in helping Bowdoin’s faith groups find their place on campus. His efforts were not tied to any one religion. He worked to designate a distinct Muslim Prayer Room and helped establish Jummah Salat prayer services, assisted in the organization of services for the Hindu high holidays Diwali and Holi and advises the Catholic Students Union and Bowdoin Community Gospel Choir, along with other faith groups.
“He is one of the most good hearted, kind and genuine people I have ever met,” wrote Mariama Sowe ’18, leader of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) in an email to the Orient. “He exudes peace and I admire him for all those characteristics. He has done so much to help the MSA develop a presence on campus and make Bowdoin more of a home away from home for Muslims on campus. We’re all immensely grateful for his eagerness to help, his openness, and his generosity. We’re definitely going to miss him and I wish him the absolute best in retirement.”
Jack Lucy ’17, head of the Catholic Students Union, called Ives “irreplaceable” and spoke to his encyclopedic knowledge of religious and spiritual resources both at Bowdoin and in the local area as well as his creativity in helping groups plan and execute programming.
“I think anyone who has worked with Bob or has even seen him from afar on this campus knows what a genuine and caring presence he has been. His goals have always been to serve students first and to put the needs and wants and goals of students before anything else,” Lucy said. “Bob has been a tremendous resource … he’s been working in the field of religious life for a long time and he has a great mental catalogue of Bowdoin people who are working in religious life and people in the midcoast Maine community, so he’s been a really great resource. We’re going to really miss him, but he’s definitely earned this retirement.”
For Ives, his work revolved around helping students discover their relationship with spirituality and religion rather than assigning them to a specific doctrine. Understanding and cooperation between religions were central features of his tenure at Bowdoin. Ives facilitates interfaith council, which brings students of many faiths together for discussions and holds interfaith services in the Chapel.
“The whole aim for me has always been to just help students to basically learn to live without fear and to love without reserve and to willingly work for the common good of others,” he said. “Those have been my three basic hopes always to do that, and it’s been a joy to try and help individuals to accomplish that.”
Ives’ worked in admissions for a year after graduating in 1969 before returning in 2013 and maintains a strong connection to the College. Although he is leaving his position at Bowdoin, students should not be surprised to see him around campus.
“My son in-law works here and my three little grandchildren utilize all the facilities because they are in Harriet Beecher Stowe school right over here so they learned to swim here,” he said. “I’ll always come back to see such dear friends and wonderful people here on this campus.”
While Ives, who is 71, will be missed by the Bowdoin community in his retirement, he is ready to step away.
“I come an hour from the east from Pemaquid, Maine and sometimes as I stay on in the evening it can be very tiring and driving home my wife is very nervous about me falling asleep which I have done from time to time, so I think it’s about time to call it a day,” he said. “It’s just been such a wonderful time here at Bowdoin.”
“It’s going to be a hard task [to replace him]. Bowdoin definitely always brings in highly qualified people, but Bob Ives is definitely a cut above,” said Lucy.
Isabelle Hallé contributed to this report.