November 9, 2015
For a young Gary Noble, ’57, Albion College proved to be a special place at a special time in his life. All these years later, it’s still special and he wants to do his part to make sure it stays that way.
“Albion College provides a place which really embraces the principles of freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression,” Noble said. “It’s important to retain and strengthen liberal arts education, and Albion is an ideal place to do that.”
That’s why, recalling his past experience with an eye toward the future, Noble and his wife of 49 years, Peggy Noble, recently made a significant six-figure gift to the College for the purpose of refurbishing and enhancing Munger Place as part of a new student living-learning community.
The gift will revitalize the building at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street, originally built as a hotel in 1926 but which was purchased by the College and used as a residence hall before structural issues forced its closing nearly two years ago. It is scheduled to reopen in fall 2016 and will house students from diverse backgrounds and interests who will live, work, and study together and bring their disparate ideas back to the College community.
Noble said the idea came from President Mauri Ditzler, but it spoke to him because of his years living in the Goodrich Club on campus. The Goodrich Club, founded in 1932, was an option for students from low-income homes who sought fellowship in a diverse atmosphere.
“The Goodrich Club provided an interesting mix, it was a diverse group of people,” he said. “It was a place which brought students together for close interaction between young developing minds that are open slates, open to understanding and learning to understand the importance of other peoples’ ideas. We all need to learn to listen and respect other ideas and preconceptions. We don’t always agree, but we can amicably agree to disagree.”
The living-learning community at Munger Place will include as many as 55 students who will study, debate and build relationships in an open communal space. Groups of as many as 10 will need to present a project plan as part of a group application to live there.
And Noble is excited by its potential.
“When there’s an opportunity for doing something good and something special, young people will come,” he said. Noble earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Albion, then went on to earn a master’s in physiology from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, a doctor of medicine from Harvard and a master’s in public health from the University of California-Berkeley.
He then went on to a distinguished 29-year career as a public health physician at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where he headed the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center for Influenza. In 1985 he chaired the first International AIDS Conference and was the AIDS coordinator in the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the CDC’s deputy director over AIDS programs.
From there he spent 10 years as the vice president of medical and public health affairs on the corporate staff of Johnson & Johnson.
Ditzler talked about his excitement in anticipating the creative uses students will find for Munger Place.
“When we began to talk about plans for Munger Place, it was with an eye toward establishing a self-contained community of students who could take their collective intellect and different backgrounds, passions and visions in new and exciting directions,” he said. “The new Munger will provide vibrant living-and-learning spaces for groups of students to discuss ideas and develop plans that can be tested and put into action right here in Albion.
“Over time, the entire academic culture of the College will be enhanced as more students emerge from the Munger experience,” Ditzler added. “The impact of this important and generous gift will be long term and far reaching.”
Noble said he was impressed with the effort and vision Ditzler showed for the program.
“It was a real breath of fresh air to see someone like Mauri with his creative ideas and his creative mind,” Noble said.
Bob Anderson, Albion’s vice president for alumni relations and development, says the gift comes at a particularly special time for the College.
“The opportunity for Albion College alumni to make a real impact in the lives of students today and for generations to come has never been greater,” he said. “The remarkable gift by Dr. and Mrs. Noble is an inspiring example. This is an institution that is creative, flexible and ready for visionary gifts that change the future. We are dedicated to ensuring that each and every dollar makes a real impact.”
For Noble, the gift is just a chance to give back to a school that shaped him so dramatically.
“I am very pleased to have the opportunity to be a part of this,” he said. “It will take a community to complete it and bring it to fruition, but I’m delighted to be one of the early supporters.”