Bob Alter with village prabhans

Rev. Robert C. "Bob" Alter '43

Throughout his life, and through half of Woodstock's 150 year history, Rev. Robert C. Alter has maintained a unique relationship with both Woodstock School and the people of the Garhwal. Rev. Alter was born in 1926 in Srinagar, Kashmir to American missionary parents. He attended Woodstock School where his father was Principal and graduated as a member of the Class of 1943. He then attended Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania in the U.S.A.

After graduation, Rev. Alter returned to teach at Woodstock, where he was joined by his fiancée, Ellen. They were married in Parker Hall in 1948, and both taught at Woodstock until 1951. At that time, they returned to the United States, where Rev. Alter attended Yale Divinity School and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1955. the couple returned to India in 1956 as missionaries with the Presbyterian Church (USA), assigned to the Rural Church Program of the North India Synod of the United Church of North India. Rev. Alter initiated an economic development program for village Christians in central Uttar Pradesh, which he continued to develop for ten years. During that time, his interest in village work led to an M.A. in Rural Sociology from Cornell University in 1962.

In 1966, Rev. Alter accepted an invitation to serve as Business Manager at Woodstock for one year, a job which led to other positions at Woodstock for the next ten years, including that of Superintendent. During his tenure as Development Director, he wrote a strategic planning document that shaped the future of Woodstock as an international, Christian school. Though Rev. Alter's achievements at Woodstock were monumental, his influence eventually extended much further into the Garhwali hillside. In 1979, he was assigned to manage the sale and transfer of United Presbyterian property in Mussoorie and Kodaikanal. In addition to this assignment, he was asked by the Board of the Christian Retreat & Study Centre in Rajpur to help start a 'community development' project in villages in and around Rajpur and Mussoorie as part of the Centre's outreach program. This project evolved into MGVS, the Mussoorie Gramin Vikas Samiti, a holistic, integrated rural community development program which emphasizes helping people identify and resolve problems within their own communities. Rev. Alter acted as Coordinator of MGVS until his retirement in 1994. As part of his work with MGVS, Rev. Alter oversaw such vital work as healthcare improvement, village dairy surveys, an ecosystems evaluation, a women's literacy project and a number of women's income-generating activities. Rev. Alter also worked with the construction of a significant drinking water pipeline, for which he is still known as the "water sahib". His experiences and reflections on development were published in 2002 in his book entitled Water for Pabolee. In addition to his involvement with Woodstock and MGVS, Rev. Alter served on the Board of KWI as President and council member for many years. He and Ellen now live in retirement at Wooster, Ohio. The two return to India each year to spend a few months in their home and among their friends in Mussoorie.

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