Richard Napoleon Ottaway
December 26, 1931 – March 23, 2020
Richard (“Dick”) Ottaway, retired minister and professor of business ethics, died after contracting the COVID-19 virus at age 88 on Monday, March 23, at Cape Cod Hospital in Barnstable, MA.
As the Boston Globe wrote in the paper’s ode to the passing of this longtime resident of Brewster, MA: “He was a man of God, a retired Episcopal priest, with a striking shock of white hair. He was a lover of oysters and wine, and a collector of bow ties, who treated the cultivation of friendships like a lifelong vocation.”
Richard Napoleon Ottaway was born in Ypsilanti, MI, on December 26, 1931, to Jack and Ruth (Montgomery) Ottaway. When he was 10 years old, the family moved to Wilmington, NC. The second of four siblings, he was the first member of his family to attend college, graduating from East Carolina College in 1954. Called to the priesthood, he then attended the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, graduating in 1958. During his studies he also served as a chaplain in the US Naval Reserves, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. Ottaway then began his sixty-years of work as an Episcopal priest by serving as a vicar in two small rural churches in Eastern North Carolina.
During the late 50s and early 60s, Ottaway undertook some of the most meaningful work of his life, establishing the Pitt County Inter-Racial Committee that successfully desegregated public facilities in North Carolina prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Ottaway viewed this experience as seminal to the development of his faith, giving a shape and focus to his ministry. From this point onward his work was focused, in his words, on the “life-giving social structures of the community.”
In 1973, after a spell in Winston-Salem, NC, as a chaplain at both Wake Forest University and the newly formed North Carolina School of the Arts, Ottaway moved his young family to England to begin his appointment as a Visiting Lecturer of management at the University of Manchester. During his eight years in the UK, he received a PhD in Business Management, and met Elaine Davis, who would become his second wife, and who survives him.
In 1981, Dick and Elaine and their combined family of four young children returned Stateside, where he taught briefly at Rutgers University before accepting a tenured position at the School of Business Management at Farleigh Dickinson University in Madison, NJ. There he taught Business Ethics to countless MBA students until his retirement in 2009. Throughout his three decades of teaching, Ottaway also served as a priest in different NJ churches—viewing his life’s work as a bringing together of these two disparate worlds.
Upon retirement, Dick and Elaine moved full time to Brewster, MA, where he continued to serve as a priest at Christ’s Church Episcopal, even as he relished bird watching, throwing dinner parties for friends and family, keeping up with grandchildren, and pouring over his beloved New York Review of Books. Near the end of his life, Ottaway ruminated on what he saw as the connective tissue of all the disparate threads of his life: his every expanding idea of faith. In his words, his was a faith that gave one “a picture of the world,” which allowed life to have “a purpose, movement, and direction.”
He is survived by his wife Elaine; his brother David Ottaway and sister Sally Papp; his children James and Rebekah Ottaway; his stepdaughters Louise Asper and Rebecca Ashley; and his six grandsons.
Richard Napoleon Ottaway
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March 27, 2020
Dick was a wonderful person who always had a kind word for everyone. He had a contagious smile on his face and seemingly effortlessly brought folks together. He will be fondly remembered. He had a huge impact on SCB. My thoughts and prayers are with you.