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His Eminence: Bob Albert

Alan JonesIn reading and reflecting upon Professor Emeritus Bob Albert’s latest publication, the form of address historically used for high nobility, “His Eminence,” comes to mind. Both the style and the content of Bob’s work and teaching at Pitzer College gives cause for great praise, respect and celebration. The impetus for this article is the publication of his latest chapter, “The Achievement of Eminence as an Evolutionary Strategy,” in The Creativity Research Handbook, Volume 2, edited by Mark Runco.

The appearance of this chapter constitutes an important landmark in the extensive and significant body of work produced by Bob during a research career that has spanned nearly fifty years. During the course of that career, he has dedicated himself to elucidating the nature of, and antecedents to, human creativity and eminence. He is widely recognized as a prominent figure in the creativity and eminence fields having authored a number of books and more than sixty research articles on the subject.

Bob Albert

A measure of the esteem with which Bob is viewed by his professional colleagues is demonstrated by his election to the presidency of Division 10, Psychology and the Arts, of the American Psychological Association. Bob’s soon to be published chapter carefully examines the complex interactions of specific genetic, epigenetic, family and cultural variables that manifest themselves in the expression of human creativity. He argues on a number of fronts that extraordinary creativity, although rare, is not random. Rather, it emerges from the precise interaction of key developmental variables both genetic and environmental. The chapter also makes a powerful argument that creativity itself has conferred powerful selective advantages throughout the course of human evolution.

Since we are taking the opportunity to recognize Bob as a first-rate scholar, we would be remiss in not additionally paying tribute to him for his wonderful qualities as an educator and colleague. Those of you who were fortunate enough to have Bob as a teacher during his many years at the College will no doubt remember him as a rigorous and innovative teacher. He was one of the founding members of the psychology field group at Pitzer and he also helped bring into being the College’s chemical dependencies cluster. In this latter capacity, he brought important expertise on the role that family dynamics plays in both mitigating and exacerbating risk factors associated with chemical dependency.

Current Pitzer trustee and alumnus Jamie Orlikoff ’76 remembers Bob’s Study of Lives course as “the most powerful class of either my undergraduate or graduate studies” and he fondly remembers Bob Albert as “my favorite professor and only mentor. He is a treasured lifelong friend. His intellectual rigor, wit, perceptiveness, and challenging and supportive nature spring to mind whenever I think of Pitzer and my time there.”
I can only add to Jamie’s words a personal note that when I arrived at Pitzer in the mid-’80s as a young and very inexperienced teacher, it was Bob who took me under his wing and mentored me in the sometimes obscure ways of Pitzer College. He was and is a friend and confidant and he even volunteered to help coach my children’s soccer teams. For his many contributions and kindnesses over the years, Pitzer College is proud and fortunate to have Bob Albert as a member of our emeriti faculty.

—Alan Jones, Dean of Faculty

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