Rev. B. Maurice Ritchie, who served more than 20 years as the leader of the Divinity School’s Office of Field Education and Student Life, has received the school’s 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award.
The honor, presented at the annual alumni homecoming luncheon on Oct. 5, recognizes outstanding leadership and service.
“From his obvious devotion to Christ and the church, to caring for ‘the least’ and his love of neighbor, Maurice exemplifies the qualities of what this award is all about,” said Sheila Cumbest, chair of the selection committee and former president of the Divinity School’s Alumni Association. “In Matthew’s gospel we hear, ‘When you’ve done it to the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.’ Maurice lives into this.”
After studying economics at Davidson College, Ritchie entered Duke Divinity School in 1958. He spent two years on international scholarship in the Kirchliche Hochschule in Berlin, and then enrolled in the Heidelberg University Theological department for one semester of study.
Upon completion of his Bachelor of Divinity (1963), then Master of Theology (1964), both at Duke Divinity School, he was ordained an elder in the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. His study continued at Duke University as he began his focus in medieval church history, reformation, and American church history in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
He spent a year as a visiting lecturer in history and Bible at Western Carolina University before returning to the Divinity School as director of admissions. Five years later, he moved into the Office of Field Education and Student Life, where he was assistant dean and then associate dean for 22 years.
In addition to his work of matching students with important experiences in the practice of ministry, Ritchie helped create the student ethics policy, and he served on all of the school’s administrative committees.
“I think we’ve all been witness to how the Divinity School benefited from his overall commitment to the quality of education here,” Cumbest said in presenting the award.
In the mid-to-late 1990s, Ritchie’s work on the Duke campus included assisting Duke Chapel Dean Will Willimon and Divinity School Professor Richard Lischer in German-English translations of sermons.
Ritchie served as liaison and secretary to the board of Walltown Neighborhood Ministries and on the Duke University International Studies Committee, and he directed the Duke-Bonn Exchange Program.
Prior to retirement from the Divinity School in 2002, he was instrumental in Duke Chapel receiving a Lilly Endowment grant focusing on student vocations.
In retirement he has continued his work in ministry by joining Partners in Caring, a division of Pastoral Services of the Duke Medical Center. He has worked with programs to educate communities and clergy in several areas, including AIDS/HIV awareness, Resistance against Pressure for Teens, parish based CPE for Lumbee Indians and African American pastors, and a spiritual care training program for Native American pastors and lay leaders in Robeson County.
Ritchie served on the Western North Carolina Board of Ordained Ministry for three quadrennial terms and the Council on Higher Education and the statewide Council on Campus Ministry for one quadrennium.
He teaches Sunday school at Duke Memorial United Methodist Church in Durham, and is working on a plan to revitalize the Sunday school and education program for Christian discipleship. He regularly volunteers at the Interfaith Hospitality Network.
In his own neighborhood, Ritchie reaches out through the “Seniors Staying Put” ministry, which he helped found.
He is married to Dottie Poole Ritchie and they have two daughters, Laura and Caroline.