In 1985, Philip Albright made an unlikely freshman at Temple University Ambler.
“I had my degree in Civil Engineering from Stanford and was moving toward retirement, or at least winding down. I felt that if I could complete the two-year degree in Horticulture, there was no four-year degree then, I’d make a half-baked landscape architect,” he said with a laugh. “My mother was an avid gardener. Growing up during World War II, we had a victory garden and I always loved gardening.”
Albright, a Blue Bell resident, had the 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 have taken up most of my time for 15 years,” he said. “I’m not one to sit still for very long. I enjoy getting things done.”
Albright’s idea of “getting things done” has been 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.
For his unceasing dedication, Albright was selected as Fundraising Volunteer of the Year 2003 by the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).
“I was very surprised; it’s certainly an honor. The Lord has been good to me,” he said. “I feel that if you have the resources, the inclination, and perhaps some talent, you have to give something back. You owe it to the community. I find it extremely rewarding.”
Albright, who is the founding chair of the Advisory Committee of the Landscape Arboretum of Temple University Ambler, was nominated for the AFP honor by Kathy Beveridge, Director of Development and Alumni Affairs at the Ambler campus. A devoted support of the Ambler campus, through his support, the Philip R. and Barbara F. Albright Winter Garden will be one of the newest additions to the Landscape Arboretum in 2007.
“The numbers don’t lie. Phil is involved in a large number of organizations and every one that I spoke with wanted to support his nomination,” Beveridge said. “He puts in so many hours with each organization every month; while retired, I think he is busier than many people who work full time. Phil’s involvement is not only characterized by a large number of hours and substantial gifts, but by high-quality interactions as well. Even considering his significant contributions of time and money, the most valuable thing Phil gives is his talent.”
Beveridge’s nomination was supported by letters from an extensive and diverse array of area organizations, including the Ambler Area YMCA, where he has been a member of the Board of Managers for 12 year and is in his second term as chairman; the Presbyterian Children’s Village Foundation of Rosemont, where he is the chairman of the board of directors and is also capital campaign chair; the Wissahickon Valley Public Library, where he has been a trustee for 10 years and chair for three while also chairing the fund raising committee; the Mattie N. Dixon Community Cupboard of Ambler, where he is vice president; and the First Presbyterian Church of Ambler, where he has served on the Session (the church governing body) and a host of other committees and task forces.
“Under Phil’s leadership, the (Presbyterian Children’s) Village has expanded programming significantly and opened a new center in Southwest Philadelphia in order to be close to the hundreds of children and families we serve in this area of the city,” said Loren Preheim, President and CEO of the Presbyterian Children’s Village Foundation. “Over the past year, Phil has guided the purchase and renovation of a former convent for this purpose with wisdom and tact. As our staff members often say, ‘It is never about him,” for it is always about the children and how their lives can be made better. He gives his time, energy, and resources and never seeks recognition or gratitude, but rather takes pride in a job well done.”
In his role as treasurer at the Wissahickon Valley Public Library, Albright instituted the library’s annual giving campaign in 1995 “and has guided it ever since, achieving average annual increases of 14 percent,” said David J. Roberts, Library Director.
“Under Phil’s leadership, use of the library has grown at a record rate. The library’s collection and range of services has also grown steadily,” Roberts said. “Much of this was made possible by the funds that he has raised. It is hard for me to imagine anyone more deserving of recognition.”
According to Robert C. McDowell, Executive Director of the Ambler Area YMCA, Albright has “single-handedly” raised more than $150,000 for the Ambler YMCA’s Annual Support Campaigns since joining the board in 1991; he typically raises approximately $12,000 or more per year.
“The Ambler Area YMCA is truly blessed to have such a devoted volunteer who truly exemplifies the character traits of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility,” McDowell said.
Albright’s additional involvement in area organizations and charities is substantial, including the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club of Ambler, of which he is a former president, the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association, Inter-Faith of Ambler, and the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund. He has even had the opportunity to put his design talents to work for area homeless centers, the Wissahickon Valley Library, churches, and other non-profit organizations, not to mention maintaining an active role at the Ambler campus through fundraising and the Arboretum committee.
“I think the campus as a whole is the best kept secret in the world. I think the Arboretum is a real community resource in addition to being an educational tool for the University,” Albright said. “Community assets such as this need volunteers. You have to find something that you believe in and be willing to put in the time. Fundraising in particular isn’t easy in today’s economic environment, but there are people who are willing and able to help; you just need to find them.”
Albright credits a great deal of his ability to dedicate so much effort to volunteerism to his wife Barbara. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in March 2004.
“It simply wouldn’t be possible without her. She’s my e-mail expert,” he said smiling. “She is an extremely active volunteer in her own right and is absolutely indispensable.”
Albright said he had two goals in life, “one to reach 70 and one to hit 50 years” of marriage.
“Looks like I’m going to get to do both,” he said.