All School Meeting Reflections - Part 1

Photo: Dean Schwartz speaks at the Fall 2017 All School Meeting.

Each semester, we mark the beginning of a new term with an All School Meeting. This tradition brings our community together and sets the tone for the coming weeks. The Fall 2017 All School Meeting was my 19th and penultimate such event.

As usual, we welcomed returning students and faculty, and celebrated the arrival of new students, faculty and staff. We also announced the recipients of First Year Studio and Third Year Comprehensive Portfolio awards. These accolades are decided by faculty in the respective years. The winners were top secret until my announcement. It is exciting and heart-warming to see and hear the response of the students who achieve this important recognition. Equally impressive is the enthusiasm and support they receive from fellow students. It is a community bonding event and special moment that is hard to capture in words. There are other aspects of the All School Meeting that I will touch on in future blogs.

Several of my 19 All School Meetings occurred during significant moments in the life of the school. This was certainly one. Another was my first. I remember feeling a sense of anticipation and hope for the school and the role I could play in moving us forward. Some of these feelings were shared in my first blog.

Other memorable meetings were August 30, 2010, one day after five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and again on August 28, 2015, one day after the 10-year anniversary. While I was not in New Orleans in 2005, I have learned a great deal about the impact of the storm on the lives of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members through many stories of the experience.

In both meetings noted above, I reflected on the remarkable resilience, creativity and empathy I heard through the experiences of these individuals. I was and still am particularly proud of work by students and faculty to create a better university that is engaged with a still-recovering community.

A few circumstances made this semester’s meeting unusual. It was personal and poignant for me as it is my first of many “lasts.” I will step down (or as I often say, “step up”) from the dean position to return to full-time teaching, research, creative work and public service at the end of this academic year. I am savoring the moments of this final year while working to leave the school in excellent shape and on a continued upward trajectory for my successor.

The meeting was personal for me on at least one other level. I made the public announcement that Favrot Professor John Klingman will retire from full-time faculty at the end of this academic year. John arrived at the school in 1983 and is highly regarded by alumni, current students and faculty.

I also announced the Talk About Architecture Symposium on April 7, 2018, a major event developed by John with full support from the school. Everyone will see and hear more about this in the coming weeks as we mail save the date cards to alumni. John will be missed, but not gone forever! He will continue to teach from time to time as an adjunct professor while pursuing independent research, creative projects, writing and service to the community.

There is another personal dimension for me. Almost 10 years ago, John was chair of the Dean Search Committee. I got to know him through that process, and easily understood why the Provost appointed him to such an important role. The process began just over two years after Katrina, and it was a clear opportunity for someone to come in and help move the institution forward. John was the ideal person to serve, and I will always be grateful for his leadership during that period and the counsel he has given me ever since.

Lastly, I briefed the school community on the work we have been doing in preparation for how we might assist fellow schools of architecture in Houston and the Houston area. This will be the subject of my next blog.

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