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Rev. James Gower (August 17, 1922 – December 17, 2012) was an American Roman Catholic priest and peace activist. Gower and his former high school classmate, businessman Les Brewer, co-founded the College of the Atlantic, a private, liberal arts college in Mount Desert Island, Maine, in 1969.[1][2]

Early life and education

James Gower was born in 1922 in Noank, Connecticut.[2] He graduated from Bar Harbor High School in Bar Harbor, Maine, in 1940, and enrolled at the University of Notre Dame.[2] Gower enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II and was later ordained a Catholic priest in 1953.[2]


Gower served as a Catholic chaplain for Bates College, Husson College, the University of Maine in Orono, Maine, as well as at Bangor International Airport.[2] He served as a parish priest at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Parish in Waterville, Maine, for fifteen years.[2] Father Gower has served as Catholic parishes in Bar Harbor, Bucksport, Castine, Lewiston, Northeast Harbor, Portland, Springvale and Stonington before retiring from full-time work in the parishes in 1992.[2] However, he remained active as a priest serving as the temporary, interim pastor at a parish in Dexter, Maine, in 2000 and Ellsworth, Maine, in 2002.[2] According to Bill Slavick, Gower was a peace activist within Pax Christi, an international Catholic peace movement.[2]

In 1968, Father Gower and his former football teammate from Bar Harbor High School, businessman Les Brewer, conceived the idea for the College of the Atlantic.[1] The Mount Desert Island residents wanted a four-year college to stimulate the island's economy during the off-season, when revenue from tourism declined.[2] Brewer and Gower founded the school in 1969.[2] Three other Mount Desert residents were also involved in the establishment of the college: Bernard K. "Sonny" Cough, Richard Lewis and Robert Smith.[2]

Gower proposed "Acadia Peace College" as the original name for the school, though this was rejected.[1][2] The College of the Atlantic began offering its first classes in 1972 with an enrollment of just 32 students.[1][2] The institution now has approximately 300 students, as of the 2012-2013 school year.[2] Since its establishment, the College of the Atlantic has offered only one academic major, human ecology.[1] Gower helped to create the curriculum for the college and its academic programs.[2]


Father Gower died on December 17, 2012, at an assisted living facility in Bar Harbor, Maine, at the age of 90.[1] Darron Collins, the current President of the College of the Atlantic, noted that Gower "was a moral and inspirational beacon for the college in some of our roughest years and toughest times" in an email to faculty and staff announcing his death.[1]


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