Published June 21, 2023
The School of Architecture and Planning remembers Alfred D. Price Jr., UB professor emeritus of urban planning, who passed away on May 2 after a long battle with cancer. He was 75.
An associate professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning for more than 42 years, Al Price was a gifted and beloved teacher who captivated thousands of students with his lectures on the history of cities, urban finance and community development. He also served as a core member of the School’s leadership during its formative years, helping to establish the Master of Urban Planning degree, grow the School’s faculty base and attract external support for the School.
“He was an inspiration to our students, a leader for our School, and a dear friend to so many. We will miss him,” said Dean Robert G. Shibley, who held a moment of silence for Price at this year’s Commencement ceremony on May 19, 2023.
Price retired from his 42-year tenure with UB in 2019, holding a “farewell lecture” in Hayes Hall for hundreds of colleagues, former students and community members. Receiving multiple standing ovations, Price used the platform to pay tribute to his own teachers and mentors — from grammar school to professional life. They imparted more than knowledge, Price said in his final address to the School: “They altered my life with a set of values that have served as the nourishment for my intellect, as well as my spirit.”
The School of Architecture and Planning will hold a Celebration of Life for Al Price in Spring 2024, details forthcoming. In the meantime, colleagues, friends and community members are invited to share a tribute to Al Price, which will be documented and shared at our ceremony.
Al Price grew up in Buffalo, the son of a public housing authority executive and prominent leader in Buffalo’s Black community. Price graduated from Bennett High School, won admission to Princeton University, studied sociology, and earned graduate degrees in both architecture and urban planning (Price was the first Black student at Princeton to receive a master’s in both architecture and urban planning). In the early years of his career, he ran a program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design to promote opportunities for African American architecture students and later a community planning office called “The People’s Workshop.” He subsequently taught at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
But Al Price had always wanted to return to Buffalo. In 1977, he was invited to join the School of Architecture and Environmental Design by Dean Emeritus Harold Cohen as both a faculty member and associate dean to help the fledgling school — then just barely a decade old — establish professional degrees, grow its faculty and bring in external funding.
Charismatic, ambitious and sharp, Price deftly balanced teaching with administration and community outreach. So much so that when Cohen went on sabbatical just four years later, he named Price interim dean.
Price’s service in administration continued throughout much of his tenure. After seven years as associate dean, he stepped down to focus on the ramp-up of the Master of Urban Planning program. His expertise as a housing specialist played a crucial role in the success of that endeavor. In 1989, he took over as interim chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and then held that role on his own three-year term, leading the department through a crucial period of growth. He would step in to fill that role once again over a decade later. More recently, he played a crucial role in the launching of the School’s MS in Real Estate Development.
Calling the School’s mission of service to the community a “sacred public trust,” Price was dedicated to serving the region through excellence in urban planning. Among his first projects in Buffalo was a publicly funded study on the Kenfield Langfield housing project on the city’s East Side. The units were proposed for demolition, but Price thought they could be saved. Ultimately, the city implemented a series of recommendations developed by the School, including enlarging the units, installing front stoops and adding pitched roofs. The complex stands today.
His public service generated plans, policy and peer-reviewed publications. The Bethel Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan (2001) was prepared for the Bethel Community Development Corporation. More recently, Price advised the city in its creation of the African American Heritage Corridor along Michigan Avenue. An expert in brownfield redevelopment, Price served on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency committee for urban brownfields across New York State and New Jersey. In Buffalo, Price served on numerous public boards, including 16 years on the City of Buffalo’s Arts Commission; the citizens' review panel for the design of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport; Artpark; the Advisory Council to Buffalo Housing Court; and the boards of directors for numerous neighborhood housing corporations.
As a faculty member, he brought his expertise to courses on housing and social policy, led graduate planning studios and taught “Financing Urban Development,” one of the School’s earliest forays in real estate development. He was a student favorite across the university, with hundreds of students packing the lecture hall every year for his “Design of Cities” general education course, a comprehensive review of urban design and the history of cities over the past 5,000 years.
A dedicated mentor and educator, Price won numerous recognitions for his teaching over the years, including the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Marcus Garvey Medal of Distinction and the Student Association of the University at Buffalo Excellence in Teaching Award.
A man of faith, Al Price was a dedicated lay leader to the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, where he served for decades on church governance commissions and committees. For his service, he was presented with the Bishop Walter Decoster Dennis Award from the Union of Black Episcopalians in 2019 and named Canon Architect and Planner for the Diocese of Western New York and the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania by Rowe in 2020.
Throughout his life and in every aspect, Al Price elevated the collective over the individual, says Dean Robert Shibley: “Al was a selfless leader who dedicated himself to the greater good – whether that was UB and our School, or the broader community. We will always remember Al for his stewardship of our enterprise, for his impassioned teaching, and for the generosity of his service to our community, and for his friendship.”
The School of Architecture and Planning will host a Celebration of Life for Al Price in Spring 2024 as part of its Public Programs series, in Hayes Hall. Please stay tuned for a save-the-date.