Phyllis Wade Albro, a teacher, storyteller, artist and musician, was named the 2011 Isaac L. Jordan Sr. Faculty/Staff Pluralism Award winner at a ceremony at Rochester Institute of Technology. The annual recognition is given to an RIT faculty or staff member who advances diversity efforts and pluralism on campus and in the community.
Albro was recognized for the stories and songs she shared of the Underground Railroad with her students in First Year Enrichment classes and with members of the Rochester community as a way to understand how people can triumph over insurmountable odds.
Her personal commitment to pluralism and inclusion is exemplified through her Signal Songs of the Underground Railroad performances, where she ties elements of her ancestors together with stories and songs of runaway slaves into an engaging and accessible work for all ages, one of her nominators wrote. She is currently collaborating on a video project, Songs of Freedom, that will become part of the fourth-grade curriculum throughout New York state. This project will provide a means to promote understanding and acceptance of others through stories, song and the spoken word.
“When I started doing this nearly 15 years ago, I didn’t do it for the accolades,” says Albro. “The stories are about my ancestors, but also about the ancestors. It is a way for people to experience things they have never experienced before. It comes alive; it is something tangible. To be recognized by my peers for this labor of love is overwhelming.”
Albro was the director of RIT’s Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program, a statewide student academic support program, from 2006 to 2009. She currently serves as an instructor in the First Year Enrichment program in the Student Affairs Division.
For the first time in the nine-year history of the campus award, RIT President Bill Destler announced that the honor would include a monetary award of $1,000 in addition to the statuette, a hand-blown glass flame to commemorate the Jordan legacy.
Isaac Jordan, who served as chair of the commission from 1990 until he died in 1994, was also an assistant professor in RIT’s College of Continuing Education (now called the Center for Multidisciplinary Studies). He was pastor of Faith United Methodist Church in Rochester, a board member with Genesee Neighborhood Settlement and founder of the community organization Dads Only Inc.
Nominees for the 2011 award included the late James Winter, former associate director of Financial Aid; Cha Ron Sattler, associate director of the Center for Residence Life; Donna Rubin, director of the Center for Women and Gender; Luane Haggerty, visiting assistant professor of creative and cultural studies at NTID; Chance Glenn, professor of telecommunications technology and associate dean of graduate studies; Catherine Clark, assistant professor of communication studies and services at NTID; Will Barkley, catering supervisor, Dining Services; and Jane Amstey, coordinator of the RIT University/Community Partnerships.
“Each of the nominees has done so much selfless and positive work to bring people together, to support them when they are down and to lift them up to their potential,” says Matthew Lynn, chairperson of the Isaac L. Jordan award committee and a member of the President’s Commission on Pluralism and Inclusion, sponsors of the award. “You have our gratitude for the way you enrich our students, our colleagues, our institution and our community.”
Previous winners of the Jordan Award are Albert Simone, past RIT president; Sarah Reynolds, outreach/user services coordinator, Wallace Library; Keith Jenkins, associate professor of communications, College of Liberal Arts; Peter Hauser, professor, research and education department, NTID; James Watters, senior vice president, Finance and Administration; Howard Ward, assistant vice president, Student Auxiliary Services, Finance and Administration; Thomas Warfield, lecturer in cultural and creative studies, NTID; and Renee Baker, executive director, faculty recruitment and retention, Academic Affairs.