Still Motivating Others
Philosopher who lost coordination, speech and visual abilities wins award, continues to inspire
June 3, 2008
By Mimi Ko Cruz
Brain stem damage suffered in 2006 has stolen his voice, impaired his vision and placed Albert Flores in a wheelchair. But, the Cal State Fullerton professor of philosophy — praised by his family and colleagues for his inspirational leadership, faculty mentorship and efforts to help students from admission to graduation — does not let his infirmity depress him.
In fact, the 62-year-old Flores wants to learn to communicate again and is figuring out how to use Morse code to do so. His mind still sharp, he gets on-campus training in the Disabled Student Services office twice a week.
Flores is this year's recipient of the university's Faculty Leadership in Collegial Governance Award. The honor was presented by President Milton A. Gordon during a May Academic Senate meeting, where Flores received a standing ovation.
"This special honor was established 10 years ago to publicly acknowledge a faculty member who has made significant contributions," Gordon told Flores. "Your tireless work has set a high standard for all other future recipients of this award."
Flores joined the campus faculty in 1982. From 1989 to 1993, in addition to teaching, he was coordinator of the Health Professions Program. Flores served as Philosophy Department chair from 1993 to 1996 and again from 2003 to 2006 and led the Academic Senate from 1993-1995.
He also served as chair or board member of Health Professions Committee, the Hispanic Faculty Staff Association and the President's Scholars Screening Committee. Flores was a member of the President's Committee to Support the Retention of Minority and Women Faculty, as well as the Intellectual Property and Institutional Animal Care and Use committees.
The philosophy professor also taught medical ethics at UC Irvine, where he was a member of that university's Medical Ethics and Medical School Admissions committees and Intertribal Council Advisory Board.
President Milton A. Gordon and former recipients of the university’s Faculty Leadership in Collegial Governance congratulate this year’s recipient, Albert Flores, professor of philosophy. Pictured with Flores, from left, are Jane V. Hall, professor of economics; Harvey Grody, emeritus professor of political science; Leon J. Gilbert, emeritus professor of modern languages and literatures; J. Vincent Buck, emeritus professor of political science; John W. Bedell, professor of sociology and chair of anthropology; Gordon; Sandra Sutphen, emeritus professor of political science; and Barry A. Pasternack, professor of information systems and decision sciences. Photo by Kelly Lacefield
Flores authored and co-edited scores of journal articles and books on such topics as identity, engineering and business ethics, teaching values, professional responsibility and rights, health care ethics, journalistic ethics, minority retention, AIDS and justice.
His many campus awards include being named the university's 2001-02 Outstanding Professor Award recipient. The Orange County Board of Supervisors named him the county's Outstanding Hispanic Educator in 1995. Chicanos for Creative Medicine named him Outstanding Faculty Adviser in 1993 and the campus Hispanic Faculty Staff Association named him Outstanding Member in 1993.
He's even in the Athletics Hall of Fame at Cleveland State University, where the star high jumper earned his bachelor's degree in history and philosophy. Flores holds master's and doctoral degrees from Ohio State University.
Flores' research includes studying medical ethics in intensive care units, engineering safety and ethics, and teaching computer ethics.
He is not one for brooding on misfortune, said one of his best friends, Craig Ihara, chair and professor of philosophy.
"One thing Al always says is: 'the best is yet to come.' He likes to be very Zen about things and doesn't dwell on the negative," said Ihara, adding that he and Flores communicate using "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" signals. "The experience Al is going through makes you realize there are no guarantees in life and you appreciate what you've got. He's handling it remarkably well."
Flores, who still enjoys watching his favorite sports teams — the Lakers and Angels — understands how hard it is to care for him, said his wife, Bridgitte Flores.
"His descending aorta ruptured out of the blue and after a 12-hour surgery, he was left with these neurological deficits that don't allow him to speak," she said. "He can't swallow and is fed through a feeding tube, he can't walk and often falls out of his chair and he has double vision, but he doesn't have any depression. He's accepted it, and, after two years, it's getting too hard for me and I'm forced to look for nursing facilities. He understands that and never complains. He's amazing."
She added that although he can no longer teach, he was honored to receive the Faculty Leadership in Collegial Governance Award.
"He loves Cal State Fullerton," she said. "Every time he came home from work, he was always so enthused, always so happy."
She and his colleagues agree the award is "well deserved."
"Al's empathy for others, his sense of humor and his integrity earned him tremendous respect from all with whom he works — students, faculty colleagues, administrators and staff," said Thomas P. Klammer, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. "He's been learning Morse code and American Sign Language to compensate for his inability to speak, following his illness. I think all of us find this inspiring because it is so clear that the lively, funny, perceptive Al is still there, even though he is partially incapacitated."