In memoriam: Fritz Albert

Fritz Albert, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Journalism and a noted documentary filmmaker and photographer, died in his sleep on Sunday, Sept. 16 at the age of 90.

Albert joined the staff of the UW-Madison Department of Agricultural Journalism—now Life Sciences Communication—in 1954, the year he arrived from his native Germany. Over the next 35 years he produced more than 100 films on agriculture, natural resources and rural development, many of which won awards in international competitions. His topics ranged from how-to farming advice to explanations of agricultural and land use policies. In the 1960s and 1970s he produced 12 films on tenure and agrarian structure in Latin America that were shown in classrooms in a number of universities, including Harvard, Stanford and the London School of Economics.

“He also took a special interest in telling the Wisconsin lake and woodland story,” recalls Herman Felstehausen, Professor Emeritus of Urban and Regional Planning. “He worked with governor, later senator, Gaylord Nelson illustrating the importance of pristine lakes and scenic rivers. He enjoyed the outdoors and produced stunning nature photos.

“Because Fritz saw the world through a special lens, he often detected changes that classroom teachers missed,” Felstehausen adds. “He was the first faculty member in agricultural journalism to urge graduate students to read Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, even before it was available in paperback. He helped a German editor get F.H. King’s Farmers of Forty Centuries, the first serious book on organic agriculture, translated into German.”

Albert also trained a generation of students in the crafts of filmmaking and photography. Many of his students learned how to make movies by serving on his film crews on his shoots on locations across the state and far beyond. For many years he taught a course in non-theatrical films, in which he showed classical American documentary films from the 1930s, and taught about content and form a well as production principles.

In addition to his receiving recognition for his films, he was active in efforts to promote understanding between Germany and the United States. In 1984 those efforts earned him the Cross of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany. In the 1970s and 1980s Albert also served on the Governor’s Task Force on Cable Communication and the Educational Communications Board.

A Memorial Service is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, at Oakwood Village Prairie Ridge East, 5565 Tancho Drive, Madison.