Gerard Albright: In this hall, your prof. might be the man for whom the hall is named

Some UDM students are being afforded a unique experience but don't even know it.

Across campus, plaques on walls dedicate many buildings, facilities and rooms to important people.

One of these plaques hangs in the Life Sciences Building. "Gerard Albright Hall," it says.

This semester that same Albright is teaching Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, students taking the class sit down in a room in Gerard Albright Hall and listen to its very namesake.

At age 86, Albright is motivated to continue teaching by his interaction with students.

"The reason I am still teaching is not because of biology but because I enjoy working with students," said Albright.

Albright grew up on the west side of Dearborn and was sent to the University of Detroit Jesuit High School. It was in high school that he developed an interest in education and the church.

 "I was enthralled by the seminarian Jesuit teachers of liberal arts and science," said Albright. "I decided that I wanted to be just like them."

Upon finishing high school, Albright decided that he wanted to join the Jesuits and began what would be a 14-year journey to priesthood.

Along the way he also gained a B.S., an M.S. and a PhD in biology from Loyola University in Chicago.

After becoming a priest, Albright was assigned to what was then the University of Detroit and has been in residence on campus for 52 years.

From 1962 through 1984, he lived in the resident halls with the students until he helped plan and then moved into the Quad residential halls.

Today, Albright lives in Lansing-Reilly Hall with the other resident priests. He makes a daily commute, with the help of his walker, to his office on the third floor of the Ford Life Sciences Building.

His office is neat and roomy, filled with teaching tools and scientific apparatuses as well as a vintage radio sitting near a window facing McNichols Road.

In the 50-plus years Albright has been at the university, he has served in many roles.

He has been the chairman of the biology department twice, the dean of liberal arts and, currently, chairman of the comity of student evaluation of the medical and dental colleges.

"I like to stay busy," said Albright. "It's harder than it used to be. I haven't got the energy."

He said that he goes to work every day for the students.

Albright said that if he were just teaching classes, he would have retired years ago. It is his involvement in student counseling that keeps him motivated. He likes sitting down and talking to students and finding out what they think.

Students waiting for one of Albright's classes to begin can hear the wheels of his walker turning briskly down the hall promptly, minutes before class starts. They can expect the 86-year-old man to be in class and on time every day unless, as he put it, "Something is very wrong."

In the classroom Albright engages students, sometimes even challenging them. He tries to get students involved with the subject matter of the courses that he teaches.

Many people complain about students these days. However, Albright has a more sobering take.

"Changes go on all the time, including students," said Albright.

He said that it is his job to figure out the best way to teach the students he has and to make the subject matter more meaningful for people than simply memorizing facts.  

Albright's connection to his students also extends outside the class.

He has conducted over a hundred weddings and baptisms, many for former students.

Albright's current students are in the unique position of being witness to the ongoing teachings of a man whose legacy has already earned him a classroom in a hall that has his name on it.