Prof. Carl Straub to hold endowed chair

Religion professor Carl Benton Straub has been named the first Clark A. Griffith Professor in Environmental Studies at Bates College.

The college will celebrate Straub’s appointment at 4 p.m. April 4, in the Olin Arts Center.

Straub will deliver the Inaugural Griffith Lecture, The Text of Nature and the Loam of Culture, to honor Clark ’53 and Geraldine Griffith, who made the gift to Bates. A post-lecture reception will follow Straub’s talk in the Museum of Art.

The new professorship was funded by a $1-million Bates Campaign gift from Clark A. Griffith, an alumnus in the class of ’53, and a trustee of the college. A cranberry farmer from South Carver, Mass., Griffith has said he made the gift, in part, to encourage faculty and student discussion of the complex relationship between people and the environment.

“The Bates community benefits enormously from both the generosity and insight of the Griffith family. We gain from the establishment of the Clark A. Griffith Professorship in Environmental Studies and the distinction brought by Professor Carl Straub’s appointment,” said President Donald W. Harward

“We also gain from the shared principles this action of establishing a professorship reinforces: a commitment to teaching and learning, and the valuing of intellectual pursuits and their connection to the world,” Harward said.

The fit between Straub and the new Griffith professorship seems right. “I have always been interested in the relationship between culture and the natural environment since the beginning of my teaching career,” Straub said, “long before it became fashionable in undergraduate curricula.”

A Bates faculty member and a Lewiston resident since 1966, Straub served as dean of the faculty at the college for 17 years before returning to teaching as a member of the philosophy department in 1992. Straub grew up in Mechanicsburg, Pa. He received his Ph.D. and S.T.B from Harvard University and his A.B. from Colgate University.

More than 20 years ago, Straub co-taught an interdisciplinary upperclass seminar in culture and nature with colleague Robert Chute, now professor emeritus of biology, director of the Bates Morse Mountain Conservation Area and award-wining poet. “It was the first attempt at Bates to integrate environmental concerns with the humanities,” Chute said.

As a representative of the humanities- not the sciences- Straub carries weighty credentials to the new endowed chair. He teaches a well subscribed course on environmental ethics, reflecting his interest in “how human values and religious world views help to give shape and meaning to the natural world.”

Another of his popular offerings, “Sacred Space: Religion and the Sense of Place,” analyzes the influence of religious traditions on an evolving understanding of the meaning of land. Looking ahead, he wants to continue to design courses that help students appreciate and value a humanistic approach to environmental studies.

Straub’s environmental stewardship outside of the college includes membership on the board of trustees for The Maine Tree Foundation (since 1994) and as an advisory trustee for Maine Audubon Society, where he served as president of the board of trustees from 1984-86, and board member from 1979-87

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