For the past few decades, one of the most imposing figures on our campus has been the figure of Albert Schweitzer. To be sure, Schweitzer died in 1965, but during his lifetime he was a bigger than life character, and his legacy lives on after him. Two former Chapman faculty members, Kurt and Alice Bergel, brought a commitment to Schweitzer and his ethic of reverence for life to the campus of Chapman University, and they founded the Albert Schweitzer Institute and inaugurated the Schweitzer Exhibit.
Albert Schweitzer was a philosopher, theologian, musician, and medical doctor who spent nearly half of his long life working at Lambar¨¦n¨¦ in the country of Gabon in West Africa. Whatever Schweitzer did he did with gusto, and he insisted, for himself and others, that we all should live thoughtful and ethical lives. For Schweitzer, the focal point of an ethical life is reverence for life ¨C not simply respect, as valuable as that is, but reverence for life, since all life, Schweitzer was convinced, is sacred. For Schweitzer the ethic of reverence for life affirms the supreme value of all life ¨C human, animal, and plant ¨C and the obligation to nurture and further life in all its manifestations.
If you are shopping around for an ethic by which you may live, you may wish to consider reverence for life. The world is in desperate need of reverence for life.
Schweitzer remains a large presence at Chapman. As you may already have noted, we have a goodly number of statues and busts on our campus, but the biggest and baddest bust of them all is that of Albert Schweitzer. It stands between Argyros Forum and the central library, and if and when it rains, the bust tends to corrode a bit around the eyes, so that it looks as if Albert Schweitzer is crying. In the old days, when the old, small, inadequate library was still in existence, I assumed that Schweitzer was staring at that library and weeping. Within Argyros Forum is a Schweitzer Exhibit that you can visit. Through the Schweitzer Institute we offer a course on the life and thought of Schweitzer ¨C I¡¯ll be teaching the course in the spring semester, and you all should take it ¨C and through the generosity of the Scudder family and the Marjorie Mosher Schmidt Foundation, we make Schweitzer scholarships available to extraordinary students. We also present the Albert Schweitzer Award of Excellence here, at opening convocation, to a person or organization that exemplifies Schweitzer¡¯s humanitarian spirit and commitment to reverence for life.
During his lifetime, people visited Albert Schweitzer at his hospital in Lambar¨¦n¨¦, and many wanted to stay to work there. Schweitzer could take only a certain number of volunteers, and so he sometimes told people to find their own Lambar¨¦n¨¦. Schweitzer knew, and we know, that there are many places of need, many Lambar¨¦n¨¦s, in our world. There are Lambar¨¦n¨¦s in our towns, our cities, our neighborhoods. The recipient of the 2009 Albert Schweitzer Award of Excellence searched and found his Lambar¨¦n¨¦. Recently the Schweitzer Institute published a book, with essays and photographs, under the title Finding Lambar¨¦n¨¦, which addresses this theme. If you would like a copy of this book, please contact me or the Schweitzer Institute.
Today, in the company of one great United States Senator, we mourn the passing of another great United States Senator, who spent his life in concerns of justice and service to others. My wish for each of us is that we, too, may find our Lambar¨¦n¨¦.
Senator George McGovern introduces the recipient of the 2009 Albert Schweitzer Award of Excellence, Dr. Anthony Garcia-Prats, Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative:
It is my privilege to tell you about the recipient of Chapman University¡¯s 2009 Schweitzer Award of Excellence recipient, Dr. Anthony Garcia-Prats. Dr. Prats is a graduate of St. Louis University and the Baylor College of Medicine. He was chief resident at Texas Children¡¯s Hospital, which is affiliated with Baylor.
You will not be surprised to hear that he is the recipient of other honors. In 2004, he received the McNamara Award presented by the Pele Chandler Endowment for contributions to child health and safety. He also was presented with the Doctors Ralph and Judith Feigin Outstanding Resident Award at the Baylor College of Medicine for 2004-2005.
Currently Dr. Garcia-Prats is an assistant professor of pediatrics with the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative. This organization provides HIV/AIDS care and treatment to more than 30,000 children and families worldwide. Known with affection by colleagues and patients as “Dr. Tony,” our honoree has been a physician with the Initiative¡¯s Pediatric AIDS Corps since August 2006, served in the Lesotho Children¡¯s Clinical Center of Excellence through February 2009, and now is leading development of a new children¡¯s AIDS center in Mbeya, Tanzania.
As a lifelong advocate for the well being of children all over the world, I am honored to acknowledge Dr. Anthony Garcia-Prats for his talent, his commitment and his achievement in bringing quality medical care to the children of Africa. And, in recognition of the life¡¯s work of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, I am proud to present “Dr. Tony” with the 2009 Schweitzer Award of Excellence.
Senator George McGovern
Marvin Meyer, Ph.D., Director, Albert Schweitzer Institute
August 26, 2009