In Memoriam: Philip Albright

Phil and Barbara Albright in the Formal Gardens

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Philip Albright, Chair of the Ambler Arboretum Advisory Committee and a decades-long dedicated supporter of Temple University Ambler and the Ambler Arboretum.

Funeral Services will be held privately by the family. Memorial donations to the Alzheimer's Association, www.alz.org, or any of the organizations mentioned in his obituary would be appreciated by the family.

Albright, who graduated from Temple with an Associate’s degree in Landscape Design, said it was a love of learning that initially brought him to Temple and he and his wife Barbara Albright’s love of the campus and its gardens that kept them coming back.

“I moved to the area in 1977. I had a job in Philadelphia and very soon learned about Temple. I was one of those strange people that liked going to school,” he said. “I had an interest in gardening dating back to World War II and the victory gardens planted at that time. My mother would garden year-round — inside and outside — so I was right at home at Temple Ambler. I took a course, was convinced into matriculating and did it all during nights and weekends. Eight years later I had my degree in Landscape Design.”

With a degree in Civil Engineering from Stanford already in hand and allegedly moving toward retirement — his tireless efforts in communities throughout the region would seem to reflect otherwise — “I felt that if I could complete the two-year degree in Landscape Design, there was no four-year degree then, I’d make a half-baked landscape architect.”

Albright, a Blue Bell resident, had every intention of involving himself in design work during his retirement. Of course, even the best plans don’t always work out as expected.

“All of my outside activities took up most of my time,” he said. “I’m not one to sit still for very long. I enjoy getting things done.”

Albright’s idea of “getting things done” was to involve himself in countless community organizations and charities, selflessly giving his time to brighten the lives of others and enhance the community in general. Temple University Ambler has been front and center as a more than appreciative benefactor of his efforts.

Albright made his first gift to Temple University Ambler in 1987. In 1998, he and Barbara Albright generously supported the maintenance and replanting of the Native Plant Garden, which continues to serve as a teaching tool for both Horticulture students and visitors.

“The campus has such tremendous potential. With 187 acres and the multi-disciplinary research taking place on campus, it has everything in place to become a national center for environmental and sustainable education,” he said. “I think the campus and Arboretum are real community resources in addition to being an educational tool for the University.”

The Phil and Barbara Albright Winter Garden was established in 2008 as the third parterre of the Formal Perennial Gardens. The Albrights also helped fund the new accessible pathway in the Formal Perennial Garden in 2017.

“Three and a half years is a blip in the life of anyone, and a blink in the life of an 88-year-old, but this is how long I was privileged to know Phil. In that short span, I grew to appreciate Phil and his unwavering passion for the Arboretum and the campus,” said Kathy Salisbury, Director of the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University. “As a new director there was a lot I didn't understand yet, but Phil I could understand because I knew where he was coming from. It was immediately obvious to me that Phil cared a lot about what happened on campus and and always any talk about progress was followed by calls to action.”

In 2011, Albright Walk, which wends its way through the center of campus, was named in their honor.

“This is certainly the first time I’ve ever had a walkway named after me,” Albright said at the dedication of the Albright Walk. “I think that it tells people that there are individuals that have taken a great interest in the campus, who want it to succeed and thrive — there are a lot of people who put in a great deal of time and effort into Ambler and it’s worth it. When other people see that there are individuals willing to do what they can to support the campus — and when they see the results of their efforts — hopefully it inspires them into action as well.”

In early 2018, Albright issued a “matching challenge.” If faculty, students, staff and friends of the campus could raise $25,000 for the Ambler Arboretum by the end of the year, he’d match it dollar for dollar. Thanks to the response from donors invested in the future of the Ambler Arboretum, Temple Ambler reached Albright’s goal in half the time. The challenge provided almost $60,000 to support Arboretum operations and programming.

"My primary goal with the challenge was to bring greater attention to the Arboretum; to get people involved and invested in its future," said Albright. "The Arboretum is very valuable teaching tool, a unique resource with so much to offer."

Salisbury said when she first met Albright, “I knew right away that Phil was passionate about this campus and about the Arboretum..”

“He was not one to just say something; he would take action. He would help raise funds for the Arboretum by generously offering these matching donations,” Salisbury said. “He embodied being the change you want to see. He would reach out to his network and his entire network knew how much he cared for the Arboretum. We have roads and gardens named for him and his name is in many buildings where he helped make dream projects realities.”

Albright led by example, serving as a member of the Temple University Ambler Board of Visitors beginning in 2003 and Board Chair from 2007 to 2010. He was a founding member of the President’s Advisory Council and founding Chair of the Arboretum Advisory Committee.

“Phil and Barbara have been champions of Temple Ambler for decades. We can never thank them enough for their support, generosity and Phil’s leadership roles on our Board of Visitors and Ambler Arboretum Advisory Committee,” said Dr. Vicki Lewis McGarvey, Vice Provost for University College and Executive Director of Temple University Ambler. “Phil always believed in the potential of the campus and the Arboretum. He was a campus champion and friend. Losing his dedication, guidance and advice are a tremendous loss, but the support he has given us will help us honor him — and his vision of the future for the campus — for years to come.”

Like a large tree that falls in the woods, “Phil’s passing leaves a gap in our hearts and in our garden,” Salisbury said.

“But that large tree will leave space for sun to shine and new plants to grow and Phil has done that for the Arboretum too,” said. “He has set the groundwork for success, made long lasting connections for us and with his support has created a foundation that we can continue to grow upon.”   

Our thoughts are with his family at this incredibly difficult time.

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