Alumni use extra time to get active in community
Pacific University alumnus Bruce Bishop ’68 has no plans to spend his retirement golfing, and not just because he’s a less-than-stellar player.
“I play golf once a year — really badly,” said Bishop, who retired in 2014 from a career as a lawyer and lobbyist for healthcare and business clients in Oregon and Washington.
A baby boomer, Bishop is part of a generation that’s redefining what it means to retire. Some boomers are starting businesses or second careers later in life. Many others are retiring abroad in search of new adventure.
For his part, Bishop is immersing himself in volunteer work, including relief work at the center of two hotly debated issues, immigration and border security.
In 2015, Bishop and his wife, Judy ’68, traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border area south of Tucson, Ariz., with members of their church to learn about border-related issues.
During the trip, the Bishops and other members of their group lent a hand to the Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans, an organization that provides humanitarian aid to migrants in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands. Many of its volunteers are retirees.
Among other activities, the Samaritans do desert searches (sometimes on foot), providing water, food and medicine to migrants braving the extremes of Sonoran Desert — where too many perish. The Samaritans also do “water drops,” hiking into the desert to leave jugs of water along possible migrant trails.
“The desert does a pretty good job of making water inaccessible,” Bishop said. “Too many migrants don’t know they have a four- to five-day hike through the desert, if they’re lucky, and it’s physically impossible to carry enough drinkable water.”
The Samaritans also provide support at El Comedor, a refuge in northern Mexico for the growing number of adults and children deported from the United States. Once a week, Samaritans serve meals, distribute clothing and provide first aid at the center in Nogales, Mexico.
During their trip, the Bishops got a look at the controversial border wall that separates Nogales, Mexico, from Nogales, Ariz.
“It was an eye-opening experience for us,” Bishop said. “Most Americans don’t know that there is a 100-mile militarized zone north of the border where the federal government suspends our constitutional rights for what it deems national-security reasons. We didn’t.”
Moved by what they learned, the Bishops, who met as students at Pacific, returned to the area in early 2017 to volunteer with the Samaritans again.
When they returned home to Portland, Bruce Bishop began exploring ways to continue to work on behalf of migrants from his home base. He has raised money from United Church of Christ congregations in Oregon to buy LifeStraws to donate to El Comedor. The portable, straw-style filters make it safe to drink water that may have been contaminated.
The Catholic nuns who run El Comedor seek to dissuade migrants from crossing the desert to try enter the United States, but many make the journey anyway. Providing migrants with LifeStraws is bound to save some lives, Bishop said.
“I’m not prepared to live in the desert, so I’m trying to figure out how to be involved from Portland,” he said.
Bishop is also trying to help immigrants held at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in downtown Portland. He is reaching out to retired, local lawyers to urge them to consider accompanying detainees during their initial detention interviews.
“Immigration lawyers are swamped these days, and the data show that people without representation have a far greater chance of being deported,” said Bishop, who majored in political science at Pacific and then earned a law degree from the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law.
Bishop knows full well that he has waded into controversial territory. But he’s okay with that.
“Humanitarian aid is never a crime,” he said, quoting the Samaritans’ slogan.
Now that he’s retired, Bishop not only feels freer to speak his mind, but to follow his passions.
Last year, he joined the volunteer board of the Oregon State Capitol Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes civic-education projects for visitors to the Capitol building and grounds.
Bishop is also active at Pacific. Among other things, he is working with fellow members of the class of 1968 to plan their 50th reunion at Homecoming 2018. The class has the distinction of being the first to graduate as Boxers.
Several years ago, Bishop began working with other alumni from the late ‘60s to raise nearly $70,000 to endow a scholarship fund as class gifts for their 50-year reunions. The Golden Guard Scholarship targets students with financial need in their third and fourth years at Pacific. Recipients are also first-generation college students.
“Our Golden Guard classes from 1966 to 1969 agreed that paying it forward in a way that benefits current students is a constructive way to remember our college days.”