Rev. James Gower, 90; cofounded College of the Atlantic

BAR HARBOR, Maine — The Rev. James Gower, a cofounder of the College of the Atlantic in Maine, has died at 90.

The peace activist joined businessman Les Brewer, a former football teammate at Bar Harbor High School, to found the college in 1969. The college, which has an environmental focus, has only one ­major, human ecology. The first classes were held in 1972.


Father Gower, a Catholic priest of the Portland Diocese, died early Monday in an assisted-living facility in Bar Harbor.

Bill Slavick, a peace activist, said the priest was active in Pax Christi, the Roman Catholic peace movement.

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As a priest, Father Gower served in Waterville as well as other locations including the University of Maine.

He graduated from the University of Notre Dame and attended Georgetown Law School, where he realized he was called to the priesthood. “I had begun to feel that the example of the prophets and ­Jesus was the nonviolent way to peace,” he told the College of the Atlantic magazine. “I saw the church as the peace movement.”

Deeply moved by the antiwar movement of the Vietnam years, he was looking for a way to make a contribution to building a peace movement when he joined with friends to found the school. The idea of focusing the school on human ecology emerged from their conversation, he said.

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