In Memory

CSU mourns passing of legendary Peace Corps co-founder Maurice L. Albertson

January 12, 2009

Maurice L. Albertson, civil engineering professor emeritus at Colorado State University who played a critical role in the creation of the Peace Corps, died Sunday at age 90.

Albertson, a Centennial Emeritus Professor, served Colorado State as the first director of the Colorado State University Research Foundation, or CSURF, director of International Programs and professor of civil engineering. One of Albertson's most recognized contributions was his critical role in the formation of the Peace Corps.

Great figure in history of CSU

"Professor Albertson will be remembered as one of the truly great figures in the history of Colorado State University," said Colorado State's Interim President Tony Frank. "It was primarily because of his work as a professor that CSU attracted and graduated its first doctoral student and assumed its full role and responsibility as a research university. He was an innovative teacher and scholar who dedicated his life to improving the living conditions of people around the world and who helped create, through the Peace Corps, a vehicle through which generations of young people have channeled their compassion and commitment into useful and important work for developing communities.

"CSU is grateful and honored to have been Professor Albertson's academic home."

Arrived at Colorado A&M in 1947

Albertson arrived at Colorado A&M - now CSU - in August 1947 to help bolster the Department of Civil Engineering's civil engineering and hydraulics programs. By 1958, Albertson had moved from being a professor in the college to overseeing all research projects on campus. In 1960-1961, Albertson was the director of the U.S. Congressional study on the Point 4 Youth Corps, which led to creation of the Peace Corps. Albertson and two colleagues, Pauline Birkey-Kreutzer and Andrew Rice, were co-authors of the book, "New Frontiers for American Youth - Perspective on the Peace Corps," which set up the basic design for the Peace Corps.

According to recent figures from the Peace Corps, in 2008 CSU ranked 12th among universities with the most Peace Corps volunteers with 57 volunteers. More than 1,400 Colorado State University alumni have served since the Peace Corps was created in 1961. CSU consistently places in the top 15 nationally in the ranking of colleges and universities with more than 15,000 graduates.

Humanitarian, world leader in water research

"Maury's work to establish the Peace Corps was his most apparent humanitarian contribution, but the work he did to establish Colorado State as a research institution was also very important," said Sandra Woods, dean of the College of Engineering. "Maury helped to establish the Department of Civil Engineering as a world leader in water research, and he played a significant role in creating the Department of Atmospheric Science. He was an amazing individual who, even in his 90s, continued to work for the benefit of humankind."

Albertson served as a consultant to the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the Agency for International Development, UNESCO and other agencies on projects dealing with water and sanitation, water resource development, village development, small industry development and research and education. He also directed the CSU project that led to establishment of the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, Thailand, and helped develop Colorado State's International Institute for Sustainable Development and Village Earth.

One of the primary architects of the Peace Corps

"Maury was an extraordinary man who truly embodied the best of America," said Peace Corps Director Ronald A. Tschetter. "As one of the primary architects of the Peace Corps, he helped set a course that has allowed more than 195,000 American men and women to serve their country and the agency's mission as Peace Corps Volunteers in 139 countries. His years of service to his community and country are a testament to his dedication, leadership and generosity of spirit. The many people whose lives Maury touched will always remember him, and for those of us in the Peace Corps family, we will remain forever indebted to him for his vision and commitment to volunteerism and international fellowship."

Albertson continued to be active in education, research and outreach at Colorado State.

"We need to be motivated by service as well as by profit," Albertson once said. "We serve best by finding out what people want and helping them work to realize their dreams, not by going into a country and telling villagers what they need."

Key figure in hydrogen power movement

As recently as 2004, through the Fulbright Scholars Alumni Initiatives Award Program, he worked with engineering students and faculty at Nepal's Tribhuvan University to develop and install small hydrogen fuel generators throughout the nation's countryside to meet energy needs. The project was led by Colorado State's Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory because of its strong record of hydrogen research and engine development work with the U.S. Department of Energy and private industry.

The idea for the project began when Chandra Joshi, engineering professor at Tribhuvan University, completed his Fulbright postdoctoral research at Colorado State in 2000. Joshi was hosted by Albertson, a key figure in the hydrogen power movement, and the two began discussions about the potential of hydrogen power for Nepal.

Albertson was named a Centennial Professor by the College of Engineering in 1970 during Colorado State's Centennial year; he received emeritus status in 1998. In 2006, the university honored him with an honorary doctoral degree for his humanitarian work.

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Contact: Emily Wilmsen
E-mail: Emily.Wilmsen@colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 491-2336