Robert Albright, also known as Father Bob, is a retired Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Prior to being an instructor at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Towson University, he served as the Catholic Campus Minister at Towson University for 26 years, where he retired in 2006. During his time at Osher, he has taught a variety of popular courses including “Introduction to the Bible,” “The Jewishness of Jesus,” and “Easter Narratives.” Father Bob is a popular instructor at Osher due to his scholarly approach to teaching religious topics.
I recently talked with Father Bob to learn more about his background and interest in teaching lifelong learners.
How long have you taught in the Osher at Towson University program?
It wasn’t long after I retired as Towson University’s Catholic Campus minister in 2006 that I was asked by Osher member, Anne Graham, to consider teaching at Osher and working with Jackie Gratz, the Osher director at that time. It wasn’t until about 2008 that I started teaching at Osher on a regular basis.
What do you enjoy about teaching here? Do you have any favorite memories?
Well, first of all, I have spent my whole life teaching. I taught at Calvert Hall for five years before entering the priesthood. I love teaching. What I love most about Osher is that I have a classroom full of people who want to be there, and that is a teacher’s delight, and one of the biggest delights of my life. That’s the beauty of Osher. And the students seem to like the study of the Bible. They appreciate it and have tons of questions so we can have a dialog even in a large class. It’s a classroom of former teachers, doctors, lawyers, judges…I even taught the doctor who took out my gallbladder! So, you’re teaching a wealth of backgrounds. The very fact that they enjoy my classes says a lot to me and it’s been a total pleasure being at Osher over these years.
What I love most about Osher is that I have a classroom full of people who want to be there, and that is a teacher’s delight, and one of the biggest delights of my life. That’s the beauty of Osher.
What are your hobbies or special interests outside of your class topic at Osher?
Well, I’m a musician. I studied at the Catholic University School of Music and I was studying to get my degree when I decided to enter the priesthood. Since I was a little kid, I played the piano by ear, and had to relearn everything formally when I went to school. I’ve been involved with the Dutch church and liturgical music over the years and right now I’ve started a little incorporation called the Emmaus Archive Institute, Inc. Tony Barr is a British composer and liturgist, and together we’re opening an archive at the Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. They offered us space in their library for the archive so we’re working to gather everything, digitizing music, and working to secure grants. So, I’m the head of the board, and the board meets at my house regularly and runs the whole institute. Between that and teaching at Osher, I have a small liturgical community that meets at my house as well.
Do you have any words of wisdom given our current times? How have you approached the current situation? Do you have any text, music, or literature that you have turned towards?
Because I teach the Bible, there’s a particular segment found towards the end of the Old Testament called the Wisdom Literature. The English translation from Hebrew means “the Writings”, and includes the Book of Job, Book of Sirach, and Book of Wisdom. All of these are a commentary on the first five books of the Bible. The wisdom books are specific ways to live out the law of the first five books. There’s this whole idea of “what is wisdom?” Wisdom is an elusive concept in the Bible, and it’s not something you can define. What does it mean to be wise? To have wisdom? I do a retreat on aging with wisdom. One of the best definitions that I ever found was: Wisdom is the ability to integrate oneself harmoniously into the existing order of things. The existing order of things is the coronavirus, and you can take it from there. The opposite of wisdom is folly, and that is played out in people not acting with caution and safety in mind. Another example would be if you’re in a traffic jam. That’s the existing order of things. The foolish people are honking their horns. The wise person takes a moment to contemplate and enjoy not having to drive so fast. This is a moment for us to integrate ourselves, and the keyword here is harmoniously. I don’t agree with coronavirus, it’s not a matter of agreement, it’s a matter of your ability to adapt and integrate yourself harmoniously. As a biblical teacher, that is the best thing that I can teach at this time.”