RIP: Alfred D. Price, longtime Western New York lay leader

Posted May 2, 2023

[Dioceses of Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania ] Alfred D. Price Jr., a longtime lay leader in the Diocese of Western New York and an esteemed professor of urban and regional planning at the University at Buffalo, died on May 2 at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo after a long illness. He was 75.

“His vocation as an urban planner, and his special concern for people struggling to make a home for themselves, were grounded in a deep faith in God,” said Bishop Sean Rowe of the Dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York. “That faith, which shaped him as an intellectual, and as a leading figure in our church, also saw him through his final illness with courage and with grace.”

Price was a 10-time deputy to The Episcopal Church General Convention and served for decades on commissions and committees that helped to govern the church. For his service, he was presented with the Bishop Walter Decoster Dennis Award from the Union of Black Episcopalians in 2019 and named Canon Architect and Planner for the Diocese of Western New York and the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania by Rowe in 2020.

Price was equally accomplished in his academic work. In 1975, he became the first Black student to receive a Master of  Architecture and Urban Planning, the highest professional practice degree in his field, from Princeton University, where he had earned his bachelor’s degree in 1969. In 1977, he began his 42-year tenure on the faculty of the School of Architecture & Planning at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for Excellence in Teaching in 2000.

His students learned about “form and function, planning and strategy, beauty and grace, and most importantly, that these only matter in as far as they serve others and our communities,” Rowe said in naming him a canon.

Acknowledged as a gifted teacher and captivating lecturer, Price received a ringing send-off when hundreds of students, former students and faculty packed a lecture hall for a gathering marking his retirement in 2019 (Alfred Price “The Last Lecture” on YouTube).

He exemplified the urban planning profession at its best, said Enjoli Hall, who completed a master’s thesis in 2017 under Price’s direction. “We’re visionary but pragmatic. We’re critical but compassionate. We can articulate the challenges and opportunities of a community in numbers and prose, fluent in the language of project finance as well as power and privilege — all underlined by a commitment to the poor and marginal in our society,” she said.  “Now if that seems like a tall order for one person, Professor Price shows that it can and must be done, and with style and wit at that.”

Price’s research, advocacy and public service focused primarily on issues of affordable housing, and he took a special interest in the challenges facing the city of Buffalo where his father, Alfred D. Price Sr., had served as manager of Willert Park, a historic public housing project later renamed A.D. Price Courts in his honor.

Over the course of his three-and-a-half-decade career at UB, Professor Price served on numerous public boards, including 16 years’ service on the city of Buffalo’s Arts Commission, the citizens’ review panel for the design of the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, and the Advisory Council to Buffalo Housing Court. He also participated in the redevelopment of the Theater District and served on the board of directors of numerous neighborhood housing corporations.

In more recent years, his service included Downtown Neighborhood Development, Inc., Buffalo’s lead agency for housing initiatives in the central business district; and service as consultant to the Bethel Community Development Corporation, a not-for-profit agency sponsored by Historic Bethel AME Church, the oldest congregation of African descent in the city. He was currently on the board of the Olmstead Parks Conservatory and working with a group trying to develop an African American museum in Buffalo.

Price’s service to The Episcopal Church began in childhood when his family desegregated the Church of the Ascension in Buffalo at the request of Bishop Lauriston L. Scaife. “The bishop understood the importance of racial integration in the parishes and requested that your family attend the, then, all-white Ascension Church in Buffalo,” Rowe recalled in his remarks making Price a canon. “At great personal sacrifice, your family accepted this calling. In so doing, you gave that congregation, our diocese, and our church a glimpse of the Beloved Community.”

Price’s service to the church ranged from training acolytes in local parishes and teaching confirmation classes to consulting with vestries facing issues with property, church architecture and renovation. Six bishops of Western New York relied on him for advice, Rowe said, especially in his role as the leader of the diocese’s architecture commission. He was an active member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Eggertsville, where he was a licensed lay reader, worship leader, chalice-bearer, and convention delegate, leading the Easter Sunday morning procession with ribbon banners. In his spare time, Price was an avid golfer.

Price is survived by his wife, the Rev. Barbara J. Price, four adult children and nine grandchildren, ranging in age from 24 to seven.