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A Legacy of Community

The main gathering space at the Massry Center for Business carries the name of J. Spencer Standish, who passed away at age 91 in September. (Photo by Gary Gold for the University at Albany)

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 28, 2016) — When J. Spencer Standish, chairman emeritus of Albany International Corporation and director emeritus of the University at Albany Foundation, passed away on September 23, he left behind a legacy of support for the Capital Region.

At UAlbany, there is a board room on the third floor of the Science Library and a gathering area in the Massry Center for Business that bear his name. Standish and his wife, Patricia, also endowed the first faculty position at the School of Business, the Standish Professorship in Entrepreneurship, and set up the Endowment for Excellence for the Massry Center for Business.

J. Spencer and Patricia Standish
Spencer and his wife Patricia were especially keen on supporting student learning and access at the School of Business. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

"It was an extraordinary privilege to know Spencer, whose dedication to family, community and the future of higher education was an inspiration to me and to everyone who had the good fortune to work with him," said UAlbany Vice President for Development Fardin Sanai. "He will be dearly missed but his legacy will always live on at UAlbany."

Standish, who went from the ground floor to the president’s office during his tenure at Albany International Corp, oversaw a period of tremendous growth for the company.

According to his obituary, Standish went to work for Albany International in 1952 when his father, John, was the company president. The company made felt coverings for machines used to make paper. As a young man, Standish learned from the ground up how the business worked. When he became president and CEO of the company, he believed in management by direct contact.

It was perhaps this method of learning every aspect of the business that led to his own belief in the power of entrepreneurialism, and his family’s extensive support for UAlbany’s School of Business.

Standish served UAlbany for decades, and the University ended up serving as the setting for a key moment is his life. His first date with Patricia was at a University at Albany Citizen Laureate Award Dinner in the 1980’s. But the connection to UAlbany predates his time as Foundation president. Standish’s mother, Florence (Spencer) Standish attended the University at Albany when it was the State Teachers College.

The Standish name will also live in through the Standish Professorship, supported by a $1.5 million gift in 2013. The endowment has helped propel the entrepreneurship track in the nationally-ranked School of Business and attract renowned scholar-teachers in the emerging field. The School of Business has since added William Wales to its faculty as the Standish Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Management.

George R. Hearst III, Spencer Standish’s successor as President of the University at Albany Foundation, applauded the Standishes' generosity in 2013 when the professorship was announced. "I have long admired Spencer and Pat for their thoughtful philanthropy," he said at the time. "Their splendid gift will make a profound difference to the University and will inspire the entire UAlbany family."

But the nature of the Standish family’s support reflects the personal traits that Spencer felt were most important: providing and nurturing your family and community.

In his own words, Standish reflected on the importance of human bonds. "Stick Together; Be Stewards of Your Wealth; Always Be Honest and Truthful; Give Back to Your Community; Be a Parental Role Model; Always Strive to Do Your Very Best; and Don't Spoil Your Children," is how Standish closed his autobiography, From Myles to Spencer: An Informal Standish Family Memoir (2009).

It should then come as no surprise that when UAlbany unveiled its new School of Business building in 2013, the meeting area was dubbed the J. Spencer and Patricia Standish Living Room. For a man who was devoted to family, and building community bonds, a "living room" is a fitting legacy.

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