Lehigh University
Lehigh University

News

Losing a friend

I lost a close friend last week. Lehigh did, too. And whether you knew it or not, all of you did as well. By all of you, I mean anyone in the Lehigh Family. His name? Alfred W. Pedrick, Lehigh University Class of 1943. One of Lehigh’s best… EVER!

When I first learned the news that Al had passed away at age 85, I immediately went into “Alumni Director mode” and started taking care of the stuff I’m supposed to do when an alumnus dies. We have alumni records to update, a protocol for notifying the right people on and off campus who may have known the deceased, and the usual kind of stuff that would come with losing any member of your extended family.

This sort of thing comes with the job and what it does, especially in this case, is keep you distant from the feelings that come with the loss. Most of the time, I get busy with my job again and keep myself distracted, maintain that distance, and never get too close to those feelings. This time, with my dear friend Al, it was impossible for me to suppress those feelings. There was no way to keep that distance and no way to simply get busy again and have it just go away.

I’ve lost several loved ones in my life—parents, grandparents, cousins, distant relatives and close friends. Just like anyone else who reaches a certain age, I’ve learned that death is part of life. In this case, after the dust settled on doing my job for two days, it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks.

I would never see Al again sitting at a board meeting, behind the reception desk in the Alumni Building or over in Athletics, at an IFC meeting, at every football game (home and away) … or anywhere ever again for that matter. I had lost a very close friend, a dear friend, someone I spoke to on nearly a daily basis, and someone for whom I had the utmost respect and admiration.

As much as I was feeling the loss, however, I began to think about the life Al had and that is what I would like to finish my column writing about … the life of Al Pedrick.

Alfred W. Pedrick '43

Al was the best! We say that sentence often when describing someone we know and love. In Al’s case, I really mean it, he was the best. Anyone reading this who knew Al will be nodding their head right now in agreement and saying to themselves, “Al really was the best.”

For those of you who did not know him, let me tell you a little about Al Pedrick. He was the kind of guy who would do anything for you. At the drop of a hat, he would drive to Boston or New York City to pick up “one of his guys” at the airport (usually a young alum or active Theta Xi brother). He spent countless hours up at his fraternity house, in the Alumni Association office, or over in the Athletics Department.

Again, keep in mind that he was 85 years old, walked with a cane, and as he said about himself, “I’m old! Older than dirt. I went to school with Asa Packer.” That was Al—humorously self-deprecating. But what was funny was that when you heard Al say these things, you could just feel the playful young man who lived strong inside the “old” man.

He was the most active retired person I have ever met. Just off the top of my head, his involvement with Lehigh included: membership on the Lehigh University Alumni Association Board of Directors (a position which I am proud to say that Al felt was the most enjoyable of all the work he did for Lehigh); a member of the Greek Alumni Council Executive Committee; Theta Xi Fraternity Alumni Board member; Class Correspondent for the great class of 1943; Reunion Volunteer; Alumni Memorial Building information desk volunteer; Athletic Department volunteer; and a strong financial contributor to Lehigh as a member of the Asa Packer Society. The list goes on and on … and that’s only his volunteer activity in the past decade!

He once told me he estimated that he has volunteered more than 10,000 hours for Lehigh in the past 10 years. On average, that is 1,000 hours a year, about 20 hours per week over the course of a full year, and about four to five hours a day. Once again, this was all between the ages of 75 through 85!! Over the past few years before his death, he proudly shared with me that his average was up to more than 30 hours a week and he was more active than ever. And the man loved every minute of it. In some ways, I think he lived for Lehigh and the work he did probably added years to his life.

For as much as I feel Al benefited from the work he did, we (the collective we) benefited even more. Sure, he helped Lehigh in many ways by giving his time. But Al’s spirit will live on forever. He has left behind a legacy of service like no other and all of us who knew him—even just a little bit—were forever changed in the way we perceive “retirement.” Al wrote a new definition of that word. Retirement to Al meant rolling up your sleeves and diving in head first to give yourself, your time, and your heart to something you feel passionate about. We are all so fortunate that Lehigh was Al’s thing and Al’s passion.

Whatever you happened to call him (and he had many nicknames! … Alfred Winslow Pedrick … Al … Big Al … Dean Pedrick … Dr. Pedrick … Winslow … Slim … Skinny … White Lightning) you knew a man who loved Lehigh. You knew a man who loved the students, the alumni, and (usually) the faculty and staff at Lehigh. You knew a man who loved life. You—quite literally—knew the best.

Here’s to you Dean Pedrick …

Chris Marshall ‘88
Alumni Director

Posted on Friday, August 12, 2005

share this story: