LEWISTON – Carl Benton Straub, a revered and influential Bates College scholar, teacher, and academic leader, died peacefully Nov. 15, 2019, at his home in Lewiston, Maine. He was 83 years old.

Straub joined the Bates faculty in 1965 and retired in 2005 as dean emeritus of the faculty, professor emeritus of religion, and Clark A. Griffith Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies.

Straub was born on April 17, 1936, in Carlisle, Pa., the only son of Olivia and Ellwood Straub, and grew up in nearby Mechanicsburg.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religion from Colgate University in 1958, a bachelor of sacred theology degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1961, and a doctorate from Harvard University in 1971.

At Bates, Straub first served as an instructor in religion and in the Cultural Heritage program. In 1970 he was promoted to assistant professor of religion and assistant dean of the faculty, becoming dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs in 1974.

In his 17 years as dean, Straub had a profound effect on the Bates community, appointing a generation of scholars to the faculty and helping to expand the breadth, depth, and excellence of the Bates academic program under then-President Thomas Hedley Reynolds.

Retiring from the deanship in 1991, Straub returned to teaching and in 1996 was appointed the inaugural Clark A. Griffith Professor of Environmental Studies. As a scholar, Straub focused on religious interpretations of the American landscape and on environmental ethics, as well as on the relationship between religion and other cultural expressions, such as art and political mythologies. He had a particular interest in the American Shakers, and in 2009 published the book Honorable Harvest: Shakers and the Natural World.

As a professor, Straub mentored many students, helping to cultivate a deep sense of wonder, especially for the natural world. He created a classroom culture and relationships with students that fostered curiosity, humility and compassion. He encouraged students to wrestle with fundamental human questions about who we are, where we are going, and our place in and relationship to the natural world. His love of writing, art and ideas inspired those who were fortunate enough to spend time with him.

He was the past chair of the American Conference of Academic Deans. In 1987, he was selected to the first-ever delegation of American academic deans to visit the then-Soviet Union to meet officially with university rectors and faculty in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Odessa. He was a fellow of the Society for Values in Higher Education and received an honorary degree from Unity College in 1990 for service to higher education, the arts, and the environment in Maine.

Carl held a lifelong appreciation for the natural world. For decades he cherished his land and camp in Sumner. It offered a concrete place to think, to slow down and to foster a spiritual connection with nature. He cared for the land as a retreat and would often convene friends and students there.

Many of us knew Carl because of his connection to — and love for — the arts. He believed strongly in the arts’ ability to help us better understand our place in the world. In 1991, he established the Olivia and Ellwood Straub Endowment at Bates to support the college’s acquisition of landscape artwork. He was a member of the Maine Arts Commission and a trustee of the Portland Symphony Orchestra and of the Maine College of Art.

From the national to the local levels, Straub held numerous offices and trusteeships in the arts, higher education, and environmental concerns. He served as president of Maine Audubon’s board of trustees and on the board of the Maine Tree Foundation. Local friends will remember him as a member and officer of the Stanton Bird Club, a dedicated donor to Thorncrag Sanctuary and member of the Community Forest Board.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, in the Peter J. Gomes Chapel, 275 College St., Lewiston, Maine.

Memorial gifts can

be sent to:

The Olivia and Ellwood

Straub Endowment

Office of College


Bates College

2 Andrews Rd.

Lewiston ME 04240.

Carl Benton Straub