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Fr. Albright marks his final exams [Radio Interview]

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May 02, 2017

After a teaching career that spans 57 years, Detroit Mercy professor of Biology Gerard Albright, S.J., will retire at the end of this school year.

Fr. Albright, 91, felt a religious calling in high school and was inspired to join the Society of Jesus because education is such an important aspect of the Jesuits’ mission and because he admired many of the Jesuits who taught him at University of Detroit Jesuit High School.  

He joined the Society of Jesus in 1944 at 17, immediately upon graduating from high school.

Fr. Albright“I was thinking I’d like to teach English or Philosophy,” he said. “But I was told that the University of Detroit would need a Jesuit Biology teacher in a few years and that I should study Biology.”

Fr. Albright started full time at University of Detroit in 1960, after completing his final Jesuit studies and earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees.

“What we teach in Biology has changed over the years,” he said. “When I started, it was mostly organismal. Now it’s more cellular and molecular and it’s starting to spread to environmental.”

His career at Detroit Mercy has included teaching 18 different courses; serving as department chair more than once; founding and serving as the chairman of the student evaluations committee, which writes letters of recommendation for students applying to medical and dental schools. He also once served as interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Education.

This semester he is teaching Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy to 76 students in lecture and labs, adding that number to the thousands of students he’s taught on the McNichols Campus.

Those students remember and admire him. Last year, more than 160 alumni and friends attended a reception of his 90th birthday.

“We students are so sad,” said senior Biochemistry major Sehie Olivia Koh. “The impact he has had on students is huge. He challenges us and pushes us as students and he makes the subject come alive. But more than that, he cares about students. When I needed to talk about anything from school-related issues or personal things, he was always there for us.”

“That’s why I do it,” Fr. Albright said. “I like Biology, but that’s not the reason I’m here. I’m here for the students. They are what keep me going.”

A special event honoring Fr. Albright’s career at University of Detroit is being planned for Homecoming Weekend, Sept. 29-30. More details will be announced online at community.udmercy.edu.

-- by Ronald Bernas appearing in Spiritus, Spring 2017.

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