David Maitland

David Maitland; college chaplain and professor, wrote about human aging

David Johnston Maitland, a teacher with a passion for human interaction, has died at age 89 in Northfield, Minn., his home of 55 years on February 22, 2012. Maitland’s gregarious personality suited him well as an ordained minister, theologian, college professor and writer. Often referring to his humble origins as the son of poor Scots immigrants in Norwood, Mass., he was acutely grateful for the richness and length of his life, recognizing the support of family, friends and his wife Betsy, the grace of God and his own efforts as contributors to his success.

Maitland was guided by a strong work ethic, which in combination with his friendly demeanor led to his election as class president all three years of high school. He also had important relationships with adult mentors in his church and high school, who encouraged him to seek a college education and subsequently a career in the ministry. Unlike his forebears and against the advice of his parents, Maitland continued his education beyond high school, earning degrees at Amherst College, Union Seminary, the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University, ultimately writing a PhD thesis on the role of the Puritans in 17th century university reform.

Maitland’s advanced education and ordination in the Congregational Church qualified him to be a teaching chaplain, a dual role he relished at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota from 1956 to 1987. Initially teaching in the lecture format, Maitland evolved into a dialog-based teaching style, which he felt helped students find their own voices. He took great pleasure in many strong and lasting relationships with students and faculty. In his role as chaplain, he enjoyed the pulpit, preaching in an energetic style that balanced theology with humor, often based on newspaper comic strips, which he loved throughout his life. In his seventh decade, Maitland found his voice as an author, writing and having four books published on what became his late-life intellectual focus, human aging. He brought a personal and theological perspective to the topic, arguing that middle and old age are undervalued in our society and are in fact times for new learning and faith development.

While his career was challenging and rewarding, his marriage to Elizabeth Green Maitland was equally important as a source of love, learning, and all that comes from a fruitful and sometimes difficult union, a union which flourished from 1945 until Betsy’s death in 2003 and was blessed by two children and many dear friends in the United States and British Isles. He made friends easily and loved engaging strangers in conversation, which some found embarrassing but many enjoyed with a smile and a laugh. These chance encounters lead in some cases to long term friendships.

Until suffering a broken hip from a fall on an icy street at age 87, Maitland was a physically active person, starting every day with exercise and enjoying activities such as jogging, swimming, skiing, and tennis, which his wife Betsy taught him to play in the early years of their marriage. A naturally competitive person who had participated in high school athletics, David soon surpassed Betsy, a naturally non-competitive person, in tennis skills, but they continued to enjoy playing singles and doubles with friends for several decades. Tennis was a central component of the life they shared. Equally important were music and reading. Both loved to sing. And together they enjoyed a daily read-aloud session when their nest emptied.

Maitland is survived by his daughter Margaret Todd Maitland, her husband Daniel Bachhuber and their son Peter, all of St. Paul, Minn.; and his son James Campbell Maitland, his wife Elizabeth Schneider and their children Rebecca and Grant, all of Reading Mass.

A memorial service is planned for Saturday, March 24 at 11:00 a.m. at the First United Church of Christ 300 Union Street, Northfield, MN 55057. www.firstucc.org Memorials may be sent in David Maitland’s name to the church, which has a strong history of social activism and which has provided a wonderful community for the Maitland family from Sept. 1956 to the present.

Funeral arrangements by the Bierman Funeral Home of Northfield.