Eyes that Sparkle: Remembering Deb Albert

Photo of Deb Albert, a true example of grit and resiliency
Deb Albert ('07, DPLS) during an interview, sharing her research in hope and resilience.

November 12, 2021
Teresa Atkins & Josh Armstrong, School of Leadership Studies

In Loving Memory of Deborah Renee Fergen Albert, 1952-2021 

Resilience. It’s a concept that we have been forced to grapple with during the past two years, but do we know what it truly means? The American Psychological Association notes that psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant source of stress. Studying people’s capacities for resilience was the passion that Deb Albert, wife of long-time Organizational Leadership faculty member and former Dean Joe Albert, detailed in her 2007 dissertation titled Embraced by Hope: The Resilience of Former Latino Gang Members.  

Although Deb’s dissertation in Gonzaga’s Doctoral program focused on resilience in others, we cannot fail to recognize the resilience inherent in Deb Albert. Deb spent 35+ years of her life teaching English to middle school and high school students. Deb was notoriously a night owl, often staying up until 1 or 2am finishing papers, prepping for the following day, making her students and colleagues treats, preparing their home to host staff and faculty from the School of Leadership Studies – always trying to do “one more thing” before she went to bed. This inevitably took a toll on her, but she never swayed in her commitment to helping others grow and thrive.  

One of Deb Albert’s gifts was a genuine practice of hospitality and presence. In his homily at her memorial service, Fr. Greg Boyle so eloquently said “her spirit was so immortal; her kindness was forever; her tender heart was eternal; her loving attention to you was immortal.” This is how she created resiliency in others. When Deb was with you, she was so attentive to your words that it was impossible to not feel seen by her. If you were experiencing hardship, she sat with you in that moment, validated your feelings, and then – with the sparkle in her eyes shining so brightly – gave you the strength you needed to keep going. The way in which Deb responded with kindness offered others a welcome respite from the stress and adversity in their lives; a place to just be with their thoughts and feelings. That opportunity provided individuals with the freedom to explore further, and to contemplate what might help them move forward in a positive way.  

deb and joe albert laughing

This was and will continue to be the magic of Deb Albert. Her immortal spirit lives on in each of us every time we remember how she made us feel; how funny she was; how she cried with us; how she helped us reframe our experience; how she shared her own experiences so that we did not feel alone. Death leaves a heartache that no one can heal. But love leaves a memory that no one can steal.

May the sparkle in Deb’s bright blue eyes, and the resiliency she cultivated in others carry us forward with grace and fortitude through good times and bad.