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Yale 62

Rev. Dr. Robert L. Stivers

Robert L. StiversThe Rev. Dr. Robert L. Stivers died in Tacoma, Washington, on December 23, 2020, at age 80. Born in Cincinnati in 1940, Bob Stivers (known to some as “Bear”) prepared at Walnut Hills High School before joining Y62. At Yale, he majored in economics, became a lieutenant in Naval ROTC, was a member of Beta Theta Pi, and was active in Dwight Hall. In Trumbull, where he roomed with Tom Belknap, Bob played softball and captained the football team.

After graduation, Bob entered the Navy. He became a Weapons Specialist, serving from 1962 to 1966 and seeing action in both the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam. After the Navy, Bob earned a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

After graduation in 1973, Bob joined the faculty of Pacific Lutheran University, where he taught for 37 years in the Department of Religion, retiring as Professor Emeritus of Ethics in 2009. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Bob was active in church affairs. In the late 1980s, he chaired an eco-justice task force whose statement described eco-justice as “the well-being of all humankind on a thriving Earth.” It was approved overwhelmingly at the 1990 General Assembly.

One of his colleagues, the Rev. Bill Somplatsky-Jarman, described Bob as a renowned ethicist who “encouraged everyone to have love and appreciation for the natural world and to live accordingly. He stands as one of a key group of Christian ethicists who helped bridge the gap between the church and the academy, deepening the church’s social witness with their scholarship, activism, and concern for the General Assembly.”

Bob’s influential 1976 book, The Sustainable Society: Ethics and Economic Growth, was pioneering and prescient as the first book with “sustainable” in its title. Bob argued that “steps to encourage durability, recycling, and conservation should be taken immediately. We may not have the luxury of waiting until the price systems make these activities attractive.”

In subsequent years, Bob produced a number of additional books, including one commenting on the debate over limits to growth and a widely-used casebook on Christian ethics.

Bob married Lora Gross, a graduate of Valparaiso University who earned Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from the Lutheran School of Theology. He is survived by his wife, daughter Dr. Laura Stivers, Professor of Ethics at Dominican University of California; son Mark Stivers, a lobbyist for affordable housing in California; and five grandchildren.

— Lee G. Bolman