Humans of Hamden: David Ives

By Beverly Wakiaga

David Ives is the executive director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute, also known as the white house on the corner of Mount Carmel Avenue and New Road.

Ives is also a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and has been teaching at Quinnipiac for 15 years as well as leading students to volunteer in different countries and attend Nobel Peace Summits since Jan. 2002.

David Ives in his office

David Ives in his office

“A friend of mine named Mohammad Elahee said he thinks that I brought the world to Quinnipiac and sent Quinnipiac students into it. So it’s something I’m proud about, ” Ives said.

This mission to bring Quinnipiac students to the world began 30 years ago when Ives was a Peace Corp volunteer in Costa Rica where he was measuring the height and weight of babies. During a visit to one family, he noticed that their daughter was having trouble breathing and decided that he would take her to the hospital. The only way to get to the hospital was through a boat that left at four am.

Excerpts of Letters from David

Excerpts of Letters from David

Ives said he would take the baby and pay if there were any charges. He remembers that the family was late getting to the boat and the captain threatened to leave without them, but Ives made it clear that he would throw the captain into the lake if he even tried to do it. The family got to the boat but they told him that the baby could not breathe. Ives tried to give her mouth to mouth resuscitation but he could not get any air into her lungs and half way across the bay, Ives says he felt her soul leave her body.

“I’ve never gotten over that since then,” Ives explained, “and that motivates me to do what I do, in terms of getting Quinnipiac students overseas.”

When he came back, he found that not too many people knew or seemed to care about people from other countries. Ives believes that we are all connected in one way or another regardless of where we live. Here at Quinnipiac, Ives tries to take students on a trip outside of their lived experience, he tries to ‘shock’ them by exposing them to different ways of life through living with host families.

Excerpts of Letters from David

Excerpts of Letters from David

According to Ives he has been criticized for not being academic enough but he has countered that by designing a program where the student goes to a particular area, ‘gets shocked,’ then comes back and takes a class that explains the nitty gritty of the situation in that particular country.

“There are academic aspects to the problem of the world but first you have to give a damn about them. I wanted to create a situation where people cared about other people around the world and then do the reasoning behind the poverty,” Ives explained.

Something else that has motivated Ives to continue his work is having had four different diseases. Polio, post polio syndrome, Guillain-Barre syndrome (a disorder in which the bodies immune system attacks the nervous system), and he is currently dealing with Parkinson's. He has found that his own struggles help those in developing countries stop stigmatizing certain conditions. His selflessness and caring nature have led many students at Quinnipiac to love not only the work he does but who he is. One could say he has his own following, something he did not know.  

“I deeply care about students and I try not to be pretentious and I try to act human in classes, and I’m a storyteller,” Ives said. “I don’t lecture, and I’ve had real world experiences from having polio and recovering from that and to helping people learn to walk in other parts of the world.”

Ives describes the students as his ‘lifeblood,’ so much so that even though this is his final year at Quinnipiac, he will be back to teach courses on nobel laureates and Albert Schweitzer. To fill the time between his classes, there are endless possibilities, he may write a book, a play may be written about his life or he may win the Nobel Peace Prize.

“I was pretty excited, I don’t talk about it much but I don’t deny it either. I hope to get it one day but I am not holding my breath for it.” Ives said of his Nobel Peace Prize nomination.