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JCSU Mourns the Death of Dr. Robert L. Albright, 11th President

Dr. Robert L. AlbrightThe Johnson C. Smith University family is saddened by the death of Dr. Robert L. Albright, who served as 11th President from 1983-1994. Albright passed on Sept. 18, 2021.  

“I send condolences to Dr. Albright’s family on behalf of the University and those who were touched by his leadership,” said President Clarence D. Armbrister. “JCSU experienced explosive growth during Dr. Albright’s administration. He was intentional about building the University’s brand asCharlotte’s HBCU and cultivated relationships with the city’s business and civic leaders that continue to pay dividends to JCSU today.”

Albright expanded the expertise at JCSU, increasing the percentage of faculty with doctoral degrees from 33% to 75%. He improved academic rigor for students by requiring them to write a senior thesis and pass a competency test to graduateIn 1990, the Robert L. Albright Honors College Center was built to recruit outstanding students with a commitment to academic excellence and community service. 

Albright understood the importance of good town-gown relations and the connection between the community and the University. He fostered mutually beneficial relationships with the Black communities on Charlotte’s west side and with corporate executives in the boardrooms uptown. 

He envisioned the University as the beating heart of Charlotte’s west side and reached out to community activists, offering non-credit continuing education courses, often for free, to help citizens of the west side develop new skills. Albright also reached out to developers and pushed for efforts to revitalize the neighborhoods around the University. He listened to the community and fought for what they wanted. 

Albright’s commitment to academic rigor, community engagement and building JCSU’s reputation has continued to guide the strategic work of the Board of Trustees, said Shirley J. Hughes, chair of the board. “Dr. Albright was respected for the work he did to elevate academic standards at the university,” Hughes said. “He was ahead of his time with his vision for revitalizing Charlotte’s west side and his determination to make JCSU a driving force in improving the quality of life for west side residents. I’m proud that the Board of Trustees and the presidents who followed him have worked hard to make his vision for the west side a reality.”

Under his leadership, the University began a $50 million fundraising campaign that secured over $34 million in the first 20 months. In addition to the Honors College Center, the Faculty House (1991) and the Edward E. Crutchfield Center for Integrated Studies (1993) were constructed during his presidency.  

Armbrister said JCSU will continue to honor Dr. Albright’s legacy. “The JCSU family is immensely grateful for Dr. Albright’s contributions to advancing the University and proud of his accomplishments during his presidential tenure. I am honored to stand on his shoulders.”

Albright, a Philadelphia native, received his bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University (PA), his master’s degree from Tufts University and his doctorate from Kent State University. 

A private memorial service was held on Sept. 23 in McDonough, Ga. Final services will be provided by:

Beckett-Brown & Hodges Funeral Home
5618 Baynton St.
Philadelphia, PA 19144 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Winnifred E. and William H. Bannister Scholarship Endowment at Johnson C. Smith University. You may click here to donate. 

Please visit the W.D. Lemon & Sons Funeral Home website to post tributes to Dr. Albright and condolence messages for his family.

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