David Maitland

27 February 2012
David Maitland
David Maitland

It is my sad duty to tell you of the death of David Maitland, age 89, on Feb 22nd here in Northfield. David was the Carleton College Chaplain for 30 years, beginning in 1956. He was also a member of the (then) newly-founded Religion Department and taught a wide range of courses on religion and faith for many years. David had a profound influence on generations of Carleton students, as well as faculty, staff, and Northfield community members. Indeed, frequently alumni mention life-changing conversations that they had with David. It has been a distinct honor to follow David in the chaplaincy and to build upon the firm foundation that he helped to lay here.  

The memorial service for David was held on Saturday, March 24th, at 11:00 a.m., at the First United Church of Christ, 300 Union St, Northfield. David will also be remembered in song and word during the Reunion Chapel Service on Sunday, June 17th, at 10 am, in the Carleton Chapel.

David leaves behind two children, Jim Maitland and Margaret Todd Maitland, and their families, as well as a deep and wide circle of friends and colleagues. Please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

In sorrow and faith,

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  • 2012-03-02 08:29:30
    Parker J. Palmer

    During my four years at Carleton (1957-1961), David Maitland was one of my most important mentors. He continued to be a mentor and friend until the day of his death. At my 50th class reunion in the summer of 2011, my wife and I had a wonderful visit with David at an assisted living facility in Northfield. While his mind sometimes wandered, he was often "right there" with memories, observations, questions, affirmations, and that characteristic twinkle in his eye which often foretold laughter. When I was young, David taught me how to hold faith and reason together seamlessly, a gift for which I will always be grateful. On my last visit with him, David taught me something about how to die with a twinkle in your eye, another priceless gift. Thank you, David, for gifts beyond measure -- for the brilliance of mind, largeness of heart, and generosity of spirit that helped shape my life.

  • 2012-05-11 10:14:30
    Cynthia Hancock Nicholson

    I grieve the loss of David Maitland. During my time at Carleton (1971-1975), I not only got to enjoy learning from David but being pastored by him. In particular I remember a period during my senior year when the pressures of my senior recital, preparing for comps, and taking a rewarding but particularly grueling trimester of classes got to me, and I started to melt down. I appeared teary-eyed at his office door late one winter afternoon, and he very wisely poured me a cup of tea and listened until he understood the question under all the questions, and then helped me to think well and laugh heartily. David was respected by his colleagues and honored by his students. Thank you, David. Your example has informed the pastor I am today in so many ways.

  • 2012-05-11 10:25:56
    Heather Huyck '73

    David and his wife first taught me the value of hospitality from faculty as a first year student, one I just continued this morning. His first year seminar on work and play and calling has long shaped my life. My deep thanks to them BOTH. I can hear his laugh now and his generosity. Cheers.

  • 2012-05-11 10:38:25
    Rick Levinson

    I shall never forget David Maitland.  I was a student at Carleton from 1964-1968.  It was a time of great change in my life.  When I asked David to help me make a life decision he calmly and with a great deal of certainty told me to go with my gut.  I think that was his way of telling me to have faith and particularly faith in myself.

    David I shall miss seeing you on your bike eating an apple and loving every moment of life.  You were truly a blessing to me and the entire Carleton community.

  • 2012-05-11 10:46:49
    Eric Guttag '74

    A very sad day for me, but Dr. Maitland is now in a better place.  I remember fondly being in chapel services for his sermons.  He's the one who first really introduced me to Jesus and made Christ real.  A few years ago when I was on campus, I told him it took over 20 years for the seed he planted to come to fruition when I accepted Christ as my Lord and Saviour.  He got a real chuckle out of that.  I'm so glad I got to see him one last time at Reunion 2009.  He will be missed greatly, but will be remembered by many of us.

  • 2012-05-11 11:32:39
    Bob Copeland

    In the fall of 1956, David Maitland and the Class of 1960 matriculated together. Our class and a great many to follow benefited enormously from his wisdom, guidance and friendship.

  • 2012-05-11 14:04:41
    Chelsea Couillard '07

    I met David and his wife when they facilitated the common reading discussion for my floor during New Student Week (fall of 2003). David and Betsy were wonderful hosts, and our small group felt so welcome in their home. When Betsy passed away suddenly later that term, our community on Third Nourse met David again for dinner to share our condolences. He invited me to be a part of the Northfield UCC community, and while I never did take him up on that offer, David and I continued to have lunch together almost every term during my four years at Carleton, and even after graduation when I returned to Northfield. He introduced me to other alums who returned to campus to see him, and I learned just how boundless his capacity for hospitality and friendship really was. He was such a kind and generous spirit, and he will always be an important part of my Carleton memories. I feel so fortunate to have known him. Thank you, David! We will miss you. 

  • 2012-05-11 14:44:14
    Richard Musty '64

    David was the best!

  • 2012-05-11 15:37:21
    Craig Scott '83

    I will always remember David for his wonderful sense of humor, warm hospitality and lusty laugh.  He was also a man of great wisdom and deep spirituality.  The last time I saw David was at our 25th reunion in 2008.  He attended a Chapel Service and by then could not recognize me.  But I have many fond memories.  David invited and convinced me to become a Chapel Associate and to deliver a sermon during Sunday chapel and even encouraged me to be a pastor (I declined).  He was a joy to work with preparing for Chapel each Sunday.

    I also remember living next door to David and Betsy and spending quiet afternoon moments with them over a cup of tea.  I truly have many positive memories of David and am grateful for his positive, loving nature.  I still miss him now and give thanks for his wonderful life and presence.

  • 2012-05-12 23:44:33
    Randy Ohman, '76

    David Maitland was a faculty highlight of my time at Carleton even though I took no religion or theology classes. In fact, despite me not really knowing one end from the other in these matters, the fact that I was there helping on a project or two and that I was a Carleton student was enough for him to bequeath kindness, exquisite knowledge and care of a young soul. He spent substantial time doing this and even wrote to my folks. He was very special. I only wish I'd had the insight at the time to take his seminars and classes.

  • 2012-05-15 01:00:53
    Peter Chun '69

    More than anything else, David Maitland was a friend to me and my family. When I left home to attend Carleton in the fall of '65, it was the first time I had ever been outside the state of Hawaii. I'm not sure how they knew I needed them, but David and Betsy took me under their wings, helped me adapt to Northfield, and even loaned a heavy winter coat. How could I have known what minus 40 degrees felt like in Minnesota? Throughout my four years at Carleton, David was a constant friend and mentor, and during graduation the Maitlands graciously invited my parents to stay with them. A year later David and Betsy drove to Dubuque, Iowa; David officiated at the wedding for me and my wife, Elisabeth Adams ('70). Since then we have enjoyed wonderful memories of joyous time with them in both Hawaii and Minnesota. David was the consummate thoughtful soul, kind and gentle, yet challenging intellectually. Yet the image I will always remember will be that of the smiling, caring, special friend.

  • 2012-05-15 17:29:18
    Jim Porter Hamann '68

    As I recall, Carleton had abolished compulsory Sunday Chapel attendance the year before I arrived as a freshman in 1964.  David's ecumenical theology made it unimportant.  Sunday Chapel became a part of my weekly college routine.  I will have to check if I still have the printed copies of his sermons that I collected after his services.  I know they will continue to inspire me. 

  • 2012-05-17 15:30:17
    Laura Graf '75

    All these years after graduating, there are still messages from David's sermons that guide and bless me. I've heard many sermons from a variety of preachers in the intervening years.  Few have left such a lasting impact.

  • 2012-05-18 09:07:02
    Karen Tarrant '70

    Chapel and established religion were not fashionable in the late 6o's when I was at Carleton.  David Maitland did a good job reaching out to the students and I will always be thankful for the refuge that he provided me personally.  He was truly a man of faith and he helped me me on my search for meaning.

  • 2012-08-18 10:03:55
    Chris Jessen Barber, '65

    The world has lost a great man. David was a wonderful person and an inspiration to many of us.

    I graduated from Carleton in 1965 and majored in religion mainly because I liked what Bard Smith and David had to say. I loved David's sermons. I truly admired his energy and intellectual curiosity. He was tremendously accomplished, but he never rested on his laurels, and he didn't take himself too seriously. He kept trying new things and was delighted when he got results.

    I was so lucky that we kept in touch after my four years in Minnesota. For example, I remember when David talked about exploring the structure of the chapel. He set up a rope maze on the lawn outside one Sunday and said he later pondered the existential meaning of the arrival of a three-legged dog that made its way through the ropes.

    It seems as if everytime he experienced a new lifetime path or crisis, he had the urge to write about it. Fortunately for me, when I wrote to  him at age 33 and told him adulthood was not what I had expected, he set up a summer workshop about human development, life stages and Erik Erikson. He wrote back to me, "Come on out and see us." He offered lessons that were life-changing.

    He and Jean Phillips counseled me through a tough time. Forever after that, we sent him mushrooms every Thanksgiving in gratitude.

    No one person has the answers to all of life's questions, but for me, most of what he said resonated and has guided me through to age 68.

    He said people -- Carleton students in particular -- often use workaholism to avoid meaningful and loving relationships. He deplored people who were  uptight and refused to shre themselves with others. I remember him saying those people were guilty of "premature closure." "And you can take that any way you want," he added.

    Another thing he said that had stuck with me is that there are many milestones in life that are just as sacred as the traditional Christian sacraments. He said one of them was putting away the crib. I assume that he viewed others as well -- like getting one's first house, grieving the loss of a beloved pet or celebrating a signaficant anniversary. Anyway, that's how I took it.

    David had an almost childlike enthusiasm for tooling around with ideas and garden tools. My husband gave him a soil thermometer, and, as David told me, he got great pleasure from using it in his garden, particularly with the tomatoes.

    David and I shared a love for big, fat, home-grown tomatoes -- warm just out of the garden. He said when he died he wanted his ashes sprinkled on his tomato patch.

    "And soon, one great big, juicy tomato will grow in that patch. And someone will come along and eat it. And they'll say, 'That was the best tomato I ever ate,'" he said.

    Whenever I stop at the vegetable stands in late August and buy big, warm tomatoes, I always think of David with love. And I always will. 

  • 2014-06-20 11:06:06
    Terry Dick '68

    It was the beginning of second term in January of 1965.  I had just returned to Carleton from Christmas break. I had settled back in to the dorm where several of us 'overflow' students were rooming - The Stadium.  I received a phone call from David to tell me that my mother had died. I was 22, she was 44.

    I am sure I am neither the first nor the last student to whom he might have had to convey that news.  He did it with his usual grace and compassion, and we immediately became friends. It was always a joy to see him when I returned for reunion.  I missed him at the last one in 2013, but I will never forget him.

  • 2015-03-18 14:45:24
    Andy Pierce '01

    I met David while I was working at Cowling checking IDs at the front door.  Cowling was a very quiet place to work, and David came in regularly (I want to say daily) to play tennis.   Rather than simply present his Carleton ID to me, he would cheerfully shout his ID number at me.  Eventually I memorized it, so we would shout it at each other. 

    He had an infectious enthusiasm, and I had the pleasure of getting to know him. It turned out that I grew up one town over from him (and two generations after him).  It is funny how those little details can pull you together.  I even had the privilege of taking him out to dinner (to Burton Dining Hall -- his request).  It was so obvious how important Carleton was to him, and from what I learned over time, how important he was to Carleton.  As a student, it was rare to connect with retired faculty, and I will always think of David kindly.