Christian Edward Albert

Christian Edward Albert

Died July 1, 1989

Rowing was not just a sport for Chris Albert. It was the code he lived by and passed on to his children, summed up in the words of his crew coach at The Kent School, which his widow can recite verbatim to this day: “Whether you win or lose, stroke by stroke you’re going to give the race everything you’ve got and you’ll have no regrets.” Chris rowed for the varsity eight at Yale and at Oxford where he studied economics. The band got back together in the 80s when a group of Oxford graduates recruited Chris and two other Yalies (Bill Fink, Y’64 and Josh Jensen, Y’66) to race the over- 40 circuit in Europe.
Chris met his first wife Carolyn at Oxford and they spent most of the 70s living in England and Australia. He called that Phase I of his post- Yale life and described it as “one main job, rewarding and stimulating work on three continents. One family and the joy of watching a son grown tall and strong.” The son was Christian H.W. Albert, and the job was with the Simplicity Pattern Co., a publisher of dress-making patterns. Chris left Simplicity in 1977 and entered a period which he characterized succinctly as, “throat cut at work, divorce, general unhappiness and left alone in New York City.”
He married Cynthia (Yale School of Management ’80) in 1982 and began a second family with son, Alexander C. Albert, and daughter, Sarah D. Albert, and a new career as a manager of a firm importing high-end liquors like Pimm’s Cup and Johnnie Walker Black. Cynthia suspected he tailored the brand’s marketing strategies to whatever sport – polo, America’s Cup – captured his interest at the time. They celebrated New Year’s Eve (Chris’s birthday) with Duncan Pollock (Y’65) and his wife. Duncan recalls that the men would do the cooking. Although Chris was a good cook, he couldn’t cook and drink at the same time. When the women came into check on them, they found the bird had never made it into the oven. They sat down to eat after midnight.

Chris was not feeling well when he returned from a race in Europe in 1988. Doctors ultimately diagnosed stomach cancer, giving him from three to six months to live. He fought for nine. His son Christian said those extra months of life were “due to his fortitude.” Chris died on July 1, 1989, six weeks short of his son’s 21st birthday. “He and I were due to have lunch at the 21 Club in New York to celebrate my birthday and drink a bottle of wine that had been laid down for me at the restaurant when I was born,” Christian writes. “My godfather, John Bockstoce, Y’66, stepped in to take me for that lunch and has been a father figure ever since.”
After Chris died, his Yale friends joined together to donate to Yale a racing shell named after him. The dedication ceremony was a special moment for his family, held on the day his son Christian rowed for Brown against Yale at Derby. “As our Brown crew edged ahead during the race, our coxswain called out that he was opposite the nameplate with my father’s name on the bow of the Yale shell,” Christian writes. “A member of my Brown crew then yelled ‘Yeah, Bert!’ It was a fitting tribute since Bert was my college nickname and my father’s as well.” Christian went on to race at Oxford and trained with the U.S. national team.
If Chris had lived, he would now have two grandchildren, Christian (third in the line of Christians) and Vivienne. He also left behind what he called “a new brood of children to keep me warm in the 21st century.” Alexander and Sarah were four and one when Chris died. Alexander has nearly completed a degree in computer science with a minor in mathematics. Sarah graduated from Colorado College. She rowed in the stroke seat at Choate and (before she transferred to Colorado) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Or, as Chris would have put it, “she stroked the boat.”

Malcolm Douglas remembers: Chris was part of our group of eight that was the first class to enter Morse in the fall of ’62. He was an oarsman, like another member of the group, Stan Trotman, and together they talked me into going out for crew in the winter of 1961-62. I went along with them to the first day of workouts. A coach put me on a one man rowing machine, while all the experienced hands got into the eights that were in the tanks. I rowed away for what I considered far too long and yet no one came over to check on me. So I checked out and went out for lacrosse, where I joined two other roommates, Don Ogilivie and Buzz Ahrens, and played first defense on that year’s freshman squad.

Michael Pollock remembers: This is the eulogy I gave July 3, 1989 at the memorial service for Chris: Friendships, in addition to family, formed the foundation of Chris Albert ‘s life. They were built around places and activities that were important to him – school, rowing and work. School was important because that’s where we undergo the rites of passage – where we learn, bond, and begin to grow up. His friendships from Kent, from Yale and from Oxford were strong and enduring over the years because Chris kept them fresh and made them meaningful. Chris never dabbled at things but focused carefully. Of all endeavors, rowing was his great love, and he was incredibly good at it. He was built for the sport. His legs shot up like strong trees, his back bowed like a spring, and his arms seemed to stretch for miles. He started rowing early on at Kent, and extended it through his life. I don’t know how he did it – especially at 45 – but he did, and he seemed to relish each stroke. I’m sure he would have rowed well into his 60s. It was wonderful – by the way – to see how much Chris gave to his son, Christian, during his youthful rowing endeavors. He repeated what his father had given to him. Of course, he wanted his crews to win. But just as much, he loved the camaraderie and friendship that ensued. Because men who row are about as good a class of men as you find these days; those men he pulled and sweated with in sleek shells years ago became Chris’ good friends. And as I can see here, today, those friendships have endured well. If rowing was a source of satisfaction and friendship, Chris conducted his work life on a surprisingly similar plane. He seemed to have a different perspective on business than many of us. It wasn’t just a career path or a track that would lead quickly to some greater reward. Rather, Chris viewed work as a forum for establishing and fostering relation ships. It wasn’t just the job that mattered, rather it was the way you comported yourself, the manner in which you completed the job, and the degree of fairness you brought to your dealings with other people. To Chris, there was a right way and a wrong way – a distinction, unfortunately, that’s been lost in much of our business life today. Chris loved good times and the best of things. Whether it was a New Haven party at the Hunt Club or the Fence Club, Chris was always perfectly attired and enjoying him self thoroughly. Nearly twenty-five years later, you could catch a glimpse of him after another Oxford Veterans Regatta on the ter race of the Anienne Club in Rome – resplendent in a double-breasted blazer and cerise Leander Club tie, glass in hand, clearly relishing the prospect of a five course dinner followed by plenty of toasts and a Monte Christo cigar. Chris would have been an Epicurean in the 17th Century and cer tainly an English Country Lord in the 19th. He knew and valued the best, and tried graciously to maintain those high standards. Chris was a gentleman at a time when the word has largely lost its meaning. He was strong and he was manly, but at the same time gentle in his dealings with others. He was loyal in business almost to a fault. He was a loving husband and father to three wonderful children. He lived his life with great style and dignity, right up to the end, without an ounce of self-pity. One of the hardest parts of dying is helping to ease the pain of those who are left living. And, here again, Chris was supremely generous. Tote Walker, the legendary crew coach at Kent, used to urge his boys to go all out during the race. That way, he said, win or lose, you ‘ll get out of the boat with no regrets. Well, Chris certainly went all out, and he moved us along with him.

William Quayle remembers: Classmate from Kent. Great rower and friend. Died much too young.

Peter Conze remembers: Chris and I became fast friends when we were classmates at Kent, and our friendship became even stronger and closer during our years at Yale, as over that period of eight years we rowed together virtually every day. We won many races together, and of course we also lost more than a few. There is no doubt, however, that participating in each other’s life to such an extent, through our intense dedication to our sport, which uniquely depends on both an absolute commitment to, and ultimate trust in, each other, creates a life-long relationship, short only of marriage. To this day, whenever I think of the wonderful experiences I enjoyed during my rowing career, when I watch a race or when I fasten on an old print or photograph of Yale or Kent crews, or even of others too, I inevitably think about Chris. Together with the indispensable qualities of a dedicated oarsman which Chris possessed almost in abundance, he was a thoroughly kind, sensitive and thoughtful person whose friendship was always treasured by those fortunate enough to be included among his friends. He was also as stubborn as he was determined. His loss was deeply felt by those who knew him well. One event in Chris’s life which I will never forget occurred in 1988, a year before he died of stomach cancer. We encountered each other at Henley that year, as Chris was rowing in a senior crew that had just competed in Rome and was hopeful of doing well, albeit against inevitably younger competition, at Henley. I was there to watch my son compete and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my father’s Kent crew victory in 1938. When I saw Chris, he didn’t look well, and he volunteered he had a persistent stomach ache. He promised to see his doctor when he returned to the US, and, so very sad to report, he was then diagnosed with cancer. We’ll never know if he had forsaken his international rowing that year and gotten to his doctor any earlier, whether his chances would have been better. To this day, I certainly miss him.

John Pinney remembers: Chris (Bert) was one of those truly unique people that one never forgets. He had a deceptively low key demeanor and a fierce commitment to rowing and the camaraderie that comes with the sport. All of us who rowed with him admired him and enjoyed his humor and taste for the finer things in life. I wish he could be with us in May.