Albright Remembered as Whimsical English and Music Teacher

Daniel Albright, a professor of Literature, author of 16 books, and a former Guggenheim Fellow, died unexpectedly on Jan. 3. He was 69.

Colleagues remember Albright as dedicated to his students and as a brilliant scholar. “Follow your whim,” a philosophy that rang true in Albright’s own life, was among Albright’s many words of advice to his students, according to his dissertation advisee, Seth P. Herbst ’08.

As an undergraduate at Rice University, Albright originally declared a major in mathematics before switching to English. Upon graduating from Rice in 1967, he attended Yale, where he received his M.Phil in 1969 and his Ph.D. in 1970. Prior to his arrival at Harvard in 2003, Albright taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Munich, the University of Rochester, and the Eastman School of Music.

Once at Harvard, he taught in the English, Music, and Comparative Literature departments. English Department chair and professor W. James Simpson spoke highly of Albright’s career in Cambridge.

“Whenever Dan was in a room, the room was full of fun and amusement and delight because of his range of literary allusions and music allusions,” Simpson said. “He was constantly delighting an audience.”

Albright’s partner, Marta S. Rivera Monclova, echoed memories of his playful manner. She said he loved to make people laugh and added that he never seemed “old.”

“I asked him, why are you not old? He said, ‘I think you only get old when you begin to believe that dignity is important,’” Rivera said. “He believed that play was important. He loved when people just let go of what they thought they were supposed to be doing.”

Albright died exactly five years after the pair first met on a blind date, Rivera said.

Albright was extremely dedicated to the success of his students, according to Rivera. He would always return students’ work with feedback almost immediately, to the point that he would leave the dinner table after receiving an email from one of his students.

One student, Herbst, affirmed Albright’s commitment.

“He’s one of the most extraordinarily distinctive people I’ve ever met,” said Herbst, a tutor in Dunster House. “He was officially a scholar of music and English literature, but he could do anything.”

Indeed, Albright’s scholarly accomplishments were numerous. According to his website, he authored 16 books, many of which addressed relationships between music and literature; most recently, he published “Panaesthetics: On the Unity and Diversity of the Arts.” He also held several fellowships throughout his career, with the National Endowment for the Humanities, as a Guggenheim Fellow, and as a Berlin Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.

“All accomplishments aside, he was just the most generous and warmhearted and kind mentor one could ever ask for,” Herbst said.

Albright is also survived by his son, Christopher T. Albright of Guangzhou, China.

—Staff writer Annie E. Schugart can be reached at aschugart@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @AnnieSchugart.

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