Thanks to the many members of the BSU community who have endorsed this proposal. The diversity of these endorsements signals the great potential of this project to change lives, locally and globally. Although the original proposal has not been accepted, and the Ben Linder name may never be associated with this project, many aspects of the proposal are still feasible, and work has already begun on some of items. New ideas are still welcome!

Each January, BSU's Nicaragua study tour includes visits to the Ben Linder Café in León, Casa Ben Linder in Managua, Ben Linder's actual projects in El Cu
á and Bocay, where coffee farmers still benefit from his work, and Ben Linder's grave in Matagalpa, where he was laid to rest with great honor.

Ben Linder gave his life for us, that we might become partners in development, partners in freedom, with the people of Central America. God has blessed us by his sacrifice and his service.

Atlanta Mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young
Memorial Service
Decatur, Georgia ~~ May 3, 1987

Andrew Young
I remain convinced that the strongest forces for social justice remain within us as individuals, families and communities. Let us draw from Ben Linder’s example the inspiration to take the lead in promoting these essential values in our societies.

U.N. General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockman
Message to Linder Family (Word document)
April 28, 2009

The Benjamin Linder Café is Bridgewater State University's opportunity to create the best campus-based coffee shop in the United States, while honoring the life of someone who gave his life in the service of others.

Professor of Geography James Hayes-Bohanan

                State University
YouTubeHear Dr. Hayes-Bohanan's brief discussion of Benjamin Linder's grave site, where he is buried with honor in Nicaragua.

Benjamin Linder Café Proposal
BSU Science Building

James Hayes-Bohanan, Geography
with help from many students, artists, and coffee-industry friends, and the Linder family

UPDATED March 5, 2013

This proposal is presented to the campus community regarding the café that is to be constructed as part of BSU's new Math and Science Center. Thanks to many students and community members who have contributed their ideas for ensuring that the café serves more than coffee. It can be an interdisciplinary project that serves as a beacon for fulfilling the scholarly and service missions of the University.

The caf
é would honor the legacy of Ben Linder, who was a U.S. citizen killed on April 28, 1987 by U.S.-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua. Thousands of Nicaraguans had already been killed and two Nicaraguans -- Sergio Hernandez and Pablo Rosales -- were killed in the same attack as they sat by a river with Ben. Public opinion and Congress were opposed to the Reagan's support of the contras all along. In fact, tens of thousands of citizens had protested the war just days before Ben's assassination. Ben's death brought the war home in a new way, however, and combined with other factors to end the war.

The Ben Linder Caf
é in Leon, Nicaragua was established by former combatants on both sides of that war, with the help of BSU alumnus Michael Lundquist. That project, further described below, is the inspiration for the present proposal.

Can't wait for the Ben Linder Café? Try the Rockin' K fair-trade cafe in its new location on Plymouth Street.

Sting's song "Fragile" from the 1987 Nothing Like the Sun album is a tribute to Benjamin Linder. Tributes have also been recorded by at least two artists with Massachusetts roots, both of whom have generously offered their support of this initiative: Dean Stevens and Jeffry Steele.

Conant Math & Science Center The inclusion of a café in the new science building is congruent with findings that such installations do serve to enhance learning in science buildings, particularly where collaborative learning models are being encouraged. Because of growing attention to coffee at BSU, the café presents a number of exciting opportunities to further the university’s mission in a variety of interesting ways. This is especially true given the desirability of creating positive connections between the building and the rest of the campus community.

The Bridgewater State University community has shown a growing interest in many phases of the coffee industry in recent years. About 150 students have participated in study tours and seminars on coffee, covering everything from cultivation to the corner café. More than thirty of these students have had the privilege of visiting the original Ben Linder Café in Nicaragua and more than fifty have visited Ben Linder's grave site there. In addition, ten students have visited Ben's original projects in Bocay and El Cuá. This learning has led directly to the idea of a Science-Center Café that is truly focused on social and environmental sustainability.

The ideas presented below have come from the students themselves, people involved with Ben Linder or the original cafe, and others who have heard about the project and offered their help. Some of these ideas are related directly to construction and some are more about operations, but it would be useful to consider all of them during the current planning and construction phases.

The People's Market at UMass-Amherst and Deet's Place at Virginia Tech offer two interesting models for comparison. Both are campus-based food outlets that provide rich learning experiences.

1.  Name: The name “Ben Linder Café in Bridgewater” would be appropriate, to honor the original Ben Linder Café in León, Nicaragua. This name is a appropriate for several reasons:

a.  The original Ben Linder Café was started by a small team that includes BSU CAGS alumnus, Mr. Michael Lundquist. It is a model of self-help and community development for people overcoming extreme adversity, in this case civil war veterans and others who have been severally injured by land mines. Mr. Lundquist, CEO of the Polus Center for Social and Economic Development, is ready to assist, along with the other founder of the original Ben Linder, coffee importer and human-rights activist Dean Cycon, whose book is a required text for BSU coffee classes.

b.  Students from BSU have visited the original Ben Linder Café and will continue to do so annually.

c.  Ben Linder gave his life in serving others. He was a civil engineer working to provide rural electricity when he became the first U.S. citizen killed by Contras during their war on Nicaragua. He was a non-combatant, whose story is told in The Death of Ben Linder. He is buried with honor in Matagalpa, and his grave is a regular stop on BSU study tours.

d.  In some ways, Ben Linder was simply an idealistic young engineer who wanted to serve the poor. Through his extraordinary dedication to the people of Nicaragua, however, and because of his untimely death, he became both a martyr and a symbol of the radical application of progressive thinking. In this way, he is in good company at Bridgewater State University, which has hosted many guest speakers who are cut from the same historical cloth, including Francisco Ramirez, Joy Gordon, Maya Angelou, Alex Kellington, James Howard Kunstler, Barbara Ehrenreich, Junot Diaz, and Angela Davis.

e.  In fact, the cafe could serve as a place to recognize such luminaries who visit our campus, through a digital kiosk, similar to the Hall of Black Achievement.

2.  Moakley Connection: Coincidentally, Ben Linder was killed the day after the 60th birthday of Congressman Joe Moakley, for whom the BSU Moakley Center is named. Rep. Moakley is remembered not only for his support of instructional technology but also for his leadership on human rights in Latin America, particularly in Central America. It was outrage at Linder's death that brought the rest of Congress into line with Moakley's point of view regarding clandestine support for the Contras. A plaque commemorating Moakley's work on social justice throughout Latin America could be featured in the café. The Moakley Institute at Suffolk University has already agreed to assist in this part of the project.

3.   Solar power: It is probably not feasible to put enough solar panels on the roof to support all of the building's electricity needs. It should be easy, however, to calculate the average electricity load of the café, install enough panels to cover that on an annual basis (that is, over-producing in the summer and under-producing in the winter) and educate café customers about these measures.

4.  Garden: Inside plantings in the vicinity of the café should include Coffea arabica (that is, coffee trees). They live ideally at 70 degrees F with 70 inches per year of precipitation; it should be possible to approximate equivalent conditions near the café. Between local botanical expertise and our contacts with world-class organic coffee growers, such a planting would be very manageable and very interesting for customers and visitors of the café. If any portable plantings are being considered for the green roof area, coffee would be a possibility there, too. After four years or so, we could have a “crop” ready for some very small-scale demonstrations of coffee processing.

5.   Water: Because the café would need a dedicated supply of in-line, filtered water, it could become a focal point of efforts to reduce the use of bottled water building-wide and campus-wide. Bottle-filling taps could be located immediately adjacent to the café, along with educational signage about the environmental and social costs of bottled water. Privatized water would not be needed in the building, setting an example for the campus and the world. 

6.  Mural: Within the café, a mural similar to that in the original Ben Linder could be commissioned (with campus talent, of course). Students who have studied coffee could be part of the mural project, so that it emphasizes connections to the growers, the processors, and the land. Art students who have participated in the coffee courses would be ideal for instigating this part of the project, and the original muralist would very likely be available to help supervise the work.

7.  Performing Arts: Ben Linder was a clown and a juggling unicyclist. An opening ceremony for the café could include a similar act, drawing the performing arts into the Science Building from the beginning. A professional clown is among the students who have visited the original Ben Linder Café in Nicaragua.

8.  Organic: The coffee would be certified organic, meaning that the coffee would be grown under shade and without toxic inputs or artificial nutrients. Inclusion of this coffee would help to fulfill the environmentally sustainable mission of the university; learning about this certification process would compliment science and conservation education, as the advantages and challenges of organic cultivation can be studied.

9.  Fair trade: The coffee would be certified fair trade, fulfilling the socially sustainable mission of the university; learning about this certification process would compliment global, social, and economic education in the Science Building and university-wide.

10.  Carbon-neutral: The coffee should be carbon-neutral, fulfilling the university’s climate commitment. Carbon-neutral coffee can be obtained from some roasters, but it may be preferable to identify and support tree-planting projects in one of the growing countries, in proportion to coffee sales (probably a penny or two per cup, to offset carbon-loading from the transportation, roasting, and brewing).

11.  Giving back: A percentage of sales should be directed to development projects in coffeelands. These projects could be chosen by customers through a voting system similar to the one used at Blue State Coffee in Providence. Each month, the management selects three projects, and donations are made in proportion to votes that customers cast with tokens that they receive with each purchase. Selecting appropriate projects would be a very worthwhile project for students across disciplines. A similar system could be developed here, with a student advisory panel coordinating the selection of projects.

12.  Global Education: Featured coffees could change on a monthly basis, with educational materials about source regions provided by student volunteers under faculty supervision. This is a natural extension of the successful coffee tastings that take place each April as part of second-year seminars on coffee.

13.  Science on a Sphere: Coffee maps will be developed for the Science on a Sphere display in the new building, to be distributed to the entire SoS national network. Each of these maps -- showing crop yields, trade, the timing of harvests, the historic spread of coffee, and so on -- could be celebrated with an educational launch party at the café.

14.  Nicaragua Nexus. The greater Boston area is home to a number of groups -- some new and some dating to the 1970s or earlier -- that have projects and relationships in Nicaragua. These groups include medical and religious projects and academic, engineering, and development programs. The Ben Linder Café could serve as a location for occasional networking meetings among people from this region who have a deep commitment to Nicaragua and its people. UPDATE: Even though the cafe has not yet been approved, Nicaragua Nexus has been formed, and did hold its first meeting in the Conant Science & Mathematics Center on the 25th anniversary of Ben Linder's death.

15. Book Club. Students have proposed a book club that would select social-justice titles for monthly meetings to discuss the books and activities that they might inspire.

16. Decór. We have an opportunity to work with an interior-design student from another institution to incorporate the best in café design as part of the planning of the Ben Linder Café.

17. Student participation. The student-run People's Market at UMass-Amherst had been a model of student entrepreneursihp for over 30 years. To the maximum extent possible, given the overall organization of dining services at BSU, the Ben Linder Café can provide similar opportunities for our students.

18. Buying local. The People's Market also supports local vendors in the Amherst area. Several participants in BSU's own Farmer's Market -- especially the nearby Rockin' K Cafe -- would be strong candidates for supplying snack and beverage items at the Ben Linder Café.

19. Fundraising wall. A cafe wall could be used to raise money to support school- or clinic-building projects or emergency-relief efforts, particularly in coffee-growing areas. Real bricks could be sold in advance of the cafe opening for a one-time fundraiser, and "fake bricks" could be used for subsequent causes. At Caffé Graffiti in Boston's North End, a large dry-erase board (white-board) is decorated with "bricks" on which people can sign their names for a small donation to a current cause. It would be great to incorporate a similar feature in the Ben Linder Cafe

20. Geography of TeaTea and Chocolate. Not everyone who comes to the cafe will be interested in coffee; for them, fair-trade tea and chocolate could be made available, as several companies -- including West Bridgewater's Equal Exchange -- are offering these products.

21. Accessibility. The original Ben Linder Cafe was founded specifically to provide meaningful employment for persons with many different physical abilities, and it is fulfilling that mission. Just as that cafe exceeds local expectations for worker and customer accessibility, so, too, can the Ben Linder Cafe in Bridgewater. In addition to meeting the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the cafe can be a model of accessibility for the entire campus. Periodic reviews of the cafe facilities and practices can ensure that the cafe keeps up with evolving standards and technologies for all facets of accessibility for workers and customers.

22. Human Rights Tribute. On April 27 and 28 each year, the Ben Linder Cafe could be the site of a two-day tribute to human rights, recognizing those who work for human rights on the 27th (Congressman Moakley's birthday) and those who perish in the cause of human rights (on the anniversary of Ben Linder's death). These tributes could be used to build a human-rights honor roll that would be similar to the university's very successful Hall of Black Achievement.

23. External Agglomeration Economies of Scale. If one specialty coffee shop exists in a town, a second shop may have difficulty getting established because of competition. Once a third or fourth shop is established, however, each additional shop can actually benefit from being part of a community known for its cafes. The Ben Linder Café could actually serve as the tipping point.

24. Internships. Whatever the management structure of the cafe, it will provide many opportunities for students for engaged student learning that draws on lessons learned in their courses. It is easy to imagine internships that would improve the cafe and provide for student learning, whether in sociology, management, geography, health, music, art, biology, or any other field.

25. Roasting. The Ben Linder Café in Bridgewater could become the first university coffee shop in the country to roast its own coffee. A five-pound roaster could be located in a nearby laboratory in order to take advantage of laboratory ventilation, and would require about 40 square feet of floor space. Students or employees could be mentored in roasting by master roasters in the region. The roasting would be a demonstration project in carbon-neutral coffee processing, and it would add an important dimension to the field-to-cup coffee education that already takes place on campus. Moreover, the coffee aroma would be a strong signifier of the campus as a nexus of coffee appreciation and scholarship.The university currently has the opportunity to obtain the same model roaster that is in use in the original Ben Linder Café in Nicaragua.

26. WiFi. The Café would provide a welcoming place for community members and collaborators from throughout New England to gather and work productively, by providing open access to a wireless internet server. It may be that a server separate from the secure campus server would be required. Free access is standard in high-quality coffee shops, and would be particularly useful for the mission of the BLC.

27. Special Events. The BSU campus is increasingly involved in international education, and frequently receives visitors from countries that produce coffee and tea. The Ben Linder Cafe could enable the campus catering services to serve ethically-sourced coffee and/or tea for special events connected to these visits.

28. One Book One Community. Each semester, members of the Bridgewater town and university community select one book for a shared reading experience, and a variety of activities are organized around that book. For the fall semester when the cafe is dedicated, the One Book One Community selection could be Javatrekker by Dean Cycon, one chapter of which describes the formation of the Ben Linder Cafe in Leon.

29. Tunes. A compact sound system controlled from the cafe could provide atmospheric music for the immediate lobby area, as well as recorded music appropriate to a variety of cultural events hosted by the cafe.

30. Travel to origin. Socially and environmentally sustainable coffee involves making stronger connections between producers and consumers. To improve those connections, many coffee roasters and retailers travel to production areas, often making such travel available to front-line employees as a reward program. The Ben Linder Cafe could help to facilitate travel to origin for food-service workers campus-wide, and elsewhere in the food contractor's organization..

31. Ned Ludd Was Right!No-Machine Zone. As a campus and regional resource, the Conant Science & Math Center is active throughout the day and evening. Currently, filtered water is available in all of its lobbies, but the only "food" is provided by vending machines located on the ground-floor lobby, adjacent to an empty cafe. The Ben Linder Cafe could provide not only better food but also employment to human food servers. Rather than "cherry-picking" high-traffic hours, the food-service vendor could commit to employing at least one cafe worker whenever the cafe is open, producing a profit while sending a message about the value of human work.

BSU Departments, Clubs, and Offices

Center for Sustainability
Service Learning Advisory Board
Center for Entrepreneurship Studies
Watershed Access Laboratory
Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Middle East Studies
Asian Studies
Bridgewater Growing Spaces Community Garden
Southeast Massachusetts Global Education Center
Second-Year Seminars
Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Network
Department of Biology
Department of Chemistry
Department of Foreign Languages
Department of Geography
Department of Movement Arts, Health Promotion, and Leisure Studies
Department of Music
Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders
Department of Theater and Dance
Department of Social Work
Department of Sociology
Clement C. Maxwell Library
Social Justice League (Impact Award Winners)
Free the Children, BSU Chapter
Students for Ethical Eating
Center for International Engagement
Community Service Center
Office of Undergraduate Research
University and Community Partnerships

The Ben Linder Cafe Would Advance BSU's Strategic Goals

1. Maximize the intensity, diversity and richness of teaching and learning relationships
Students will learn with faculty members, vendors, and the broader community.

2. Promote leadership skills
Students will work with food contractor to enhance the coffee business.

3. Foster the cultural, scientific, economic and intellectual capacity of the region
The café will link visual and performing arts to the sciences and social sciences. It will also be a model for entrepreneurs in the region.

4. Increase global and cultural awareness
Focal point for global and cross-cultural activities of the campus, building on the legacy of Rep. John J. Moakley’s work in Central America

5. Serve as an agent of social justice and sustainable practices
Ben Linder gave his life in service to humanity. The café will celebrate and further that legacy.

Together, these measures might earn an innovation point or two in the LEED evaluation of the new Science Center. More importantly, they would make quite visible a variety of connections between consumers and the wider world, and among disciplines both in and out of the natural sciences.

We have a growing cadre of coffee enthusiasts on campus. More than 150 have taken the second-year seminar, in which they produced educational materials for campus tasting events. More than 40 have taken the study tour in Nicaragua, and a growing number have taken both courses. Among the scores of students who have studied coffee in depth, quite a few are regularly seeking ways to be of service. The café could provide a lot of opportunities for service learning and social entrepreneurship, building directly on these classes -- and through other classes and initiatives campus-wide.

Some of these ideas arose during broader discussions of fair-trade coffee with Sodexo managers and some of the student coffee experts mentioned above. Those discussions have already led to improvements in the provision of coffee in existing outlets on campus; the Ben Linder Café would provide a focal point for continuous improvement in the social and environmental sustainability of coffee at Bridgewater State University, providing a learning opportunity for the entire campus.

BEN LINDER Grave-Side Presentation in Matagalpa, Part 1

Presentation in Matagalpa, Part 2
Thanks to Jesse Walker for recording these mini-lectures on the life of Ben Linder at his graveside in Matagalpa. These recordings were made in January 2010, during BSU's fourth study tour to Nicaragua.

Ben Linder Cafe in Leon

During the January 2009 Geography of Coffee study tour,
BSU students and I posed with the baristas (3rd, 4th, and 5th from the right)

at the original Ben Linder Café in León, Nicaragua. In the background is a mural
of Ben Linder's life, by Massachusetts artist Greg Stone.

In the summer of 2009, the operators of the Ben Linder Cafe in Leon decided that the local economy would not support the cafe in its original building, and moved to a smaller location a few blocks away. During the January 2010 Geography of Coffee study tour, we visited the new cafe, at which coffee was being roasted but not yet served. It is now situated in the front of a residential hotel that serves disabled veterans, and next to the offices of adventure-tour operators. Because the Ben Linder Cafe offers both coffee and "seeing hands" massage, it is hoped that tourists returning from volcano excursions will gravitate toward the new, albeit much smaller, cafe.

Ben Linder
                Cafe, in its second location in Leon, Nicaragua

New Ben Linder Cafe, Leon

Denis Pantaleon Alfaro Arcia and his family pose (front-right) with 2010 study tour participants in front of the roaster at the new Ben Linder Cafe. The family is holding a copy of The Death of Ben Linder, a frequently-requested title that I donated for the use of future customers. The book describes Ben Linder's life of service, his personal struggles as a young volunteer in a war zone, and the role his assassination played in bringing about an end to that war.
Also pictured (center-rear) is BSU alumnus and Polus Center director Michael Lundquist, who -- together with Massachusetts-based coffee importer Dean Cycon -- has made the cafe possible. The story of Dennis is featured in Javatrekker, Cycon's seminal book on fair-trade coffee.

Walking Unidos
The original Ben Linder Cafe supports the Walking Unidos project in Leon, which is now a regular stop on BSU's Geography of Coffee study tour.

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A geograher and his cafezinho
Dr. James Hayes-Bohanan
Coffee Maven and Professor
Department of Geography -- Bridgewater State University
Bridgewater, Massachusetts USA / EEUU / EUA
Affiliated Scholar, Institute for Coffee Studies
Vanderbilt University
jhayesboh @

Visitors since December 2, 2009