March 27, 2019
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COA co-founder, priest, James Gower, dies at age 90

Rev. James Gower

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

The Catholic priest and peace activist joined businessman Les Brewer, a former football teammate at Bar Harbor High School, to help found the college in 1969. Also involved in the effort were Bernard K. “Sonny” Cough, Richard Lewis and Robert Smith, all of whom predeceased Gower.

According to officials with COA and with the Roman Catholic Diocese in Portland, Gower graduated from Bar Harbor High School in 1940, attended Notre Dame, served in the Navy in World War II and became ordained as a priest in 1953. Born in Noank, Conn., in 1922, Gower died early Monday at an assisted living facility in Bar Harbor, officials said.

COA President Darron Collins said Monday in a prepared statement that Gower initially proposed calling the school Acadia Peace College and helped shape the school into an interdisciplinary college with one major, human ecology.

”Father Jim was truly a remarkable human being and his impact was both wide and deep,” Collins wrote. “He was a moral and inspirational beacon for the college in some of our roughest years and toughest times.”

The college was created with the goal of helping to boost the year-round economy on Mount Desert Island and of having an environmental focus. COA, where only 32 students were enrolled when classes first were held in 1972, now has more than 300 students.

Bill Slavick, a peace activist who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006, said Gower was active in Pax Christi, the Roman Catholic peace movement.

As a priest, Gower served for 15 years at Sacred Heart Parish in Waterville and as chaplain at Bates College, Husson College, University of Maine in Orono and at Bangor International Airport. Before retiring from full-time ministry in 1992, Gower also served parishes in Bar Harbor, Bucksport, Castine, Lewiston, Northeast Harbor, Portland, Springvale and Stonington. More recently, he served as interim pastor at parishes in Dexter in 2000 and in Ellsworth in 2002.

According to officials, a celebration of Gower’s life is planned for 11 a.m. Friday, June 28, at the Holy Redeemer Church in Bar Harbor, with a reception following at COA. Contributions to The Father James Gower Scholarship Fund at COA can be sent to: Father Gower Scholarship Fund, COA Development Office, 105 Eden St. Bar Harbor, ME 04609.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.

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