Tulane takes on the Big Apple: AIA Conference on Architecture alumni reception recap

In June, Tulane School of Architecture alumni, faculty and friends gathered for the annual alumni reception during the AIA Conference on Architecture, held this year in New York City. Below are excerpts of my remarks from the event.

We started this tradition, or a new era of alumni relations more broadly, 10 years ago. These gatherings have taken place thanks to our amazing Tulane School of Architecture Board of Advisors and specifically the leadership and dedication of a core group of alumni who support and promote these events every year.

We have three wonderful friends and fellow alumni to thank for this most recent event, Maziar Behrooz, AIA (A ’85), Rob Dean (A ’68), FAIA and Morris Adjmi, FAIA (A ’83). I brought these gentlemen onto the board after meeting them during my first year as dean. I was impressed with them then, and they have brought tremendous insight, support and counsel to me ever since. Thank you to these three and the dozen or so other alumni who have funded similar events over the years.

A few comments about the board and their importance to the school now and into the future.

First, they share their advice, counsel and ideas with me and with the school as a whole. They commit to meeting twice a year in New Orleans, plus they participate in monthly committee conference calls. They give a minimum of $2,500 a year to our Annual Fund, supporting various initiatives in support of our students.

In addition, they commit to participate in our capital campaign with additional gifts to their ability. For example, the board donated around $2.5 million as a “nucleus fund” to get things underway for the Richardson Memorial Hall project. While some of that was spent money on professional fees and to re-furnish ALL of the studios, desks, chairs, storage units, conference tables, white boards, monitors, etc., there is a significant fund left for the next dean to use as the starting point for the major campaign needed to get the project done.

Our last board meeting was on April 6 of this year, and to my complete surprise, the board got together and contributed a significant sum of money to an endow a student scholarship that will provide funding for a student who needs financial support – and they named it in my honor. It was one of the most moving moments of my time as dean, and I am eternally grateful for all of their support as we have moved the school forward together.

I trust the board will continue to support the new dean in a variety of ways.

For some, this is your first time attending an alumni event, and for some, I have seen you every year.

For new people, the goal of this event is to gather Tulanians together. I hope this will be the start of a strong relationship with your alma mater. I use this event to bring us all together to recognize and congratulate the excellence of Tulane alumni through the lens of those of you who have garnered important national recognition. First, congratulations to our newest Fellows:

  • Chris Cooper, FAIA (A ’91)
  • JR Coleman-Davis, FAIA (A ’75)
  • Clemens Schaub, FAIA (A ’76)
  • Wayne Troyer, FAIA (A ’83)
  • And a future Fellow – Allison Albericci (A ’04), AIA Young Architect Award winner for 2018!

Congratulations! We have more than doubled the number of Tulane School of Architecture alumni who are Fellows since my arrival in 2008. I have personally encouraged most of these folks to go up, and have written for virtually everyone. I hope this tradition will continue.

I also want to recognize three others elected to Fellowship, two New Orleans architects who taught previously as adjunct faculty and a former dean.

  • Lee Ledbetter, FAIA – with his own firm
  • Z Smith, FAIA – partner in Eskew+Dumez+Ripple in New Orleans
  • Don Gatzke, FAIA – University of Texas Arlington
  • I want to close by letting you know what an honor it has been to serve as dean of the Tulane School of Architecture for the last 10 years.

    We have come a long way during this time, with strength and diversity in our programs, with a much higher profile on campus, in the city of New Orleans and nationally. I can summarize my work by reflecting back on the original strategic plan that I developed with the faculty in August of 2008 and throughout that first fall – and shared with students, parents, alumni at the time:

    Strengthen the core – Around design excellence and the relevance of a curriculum that engages the community.

    Raise the profile – Our undergraduate program was ranked #17 and #14 in the nation over the last two years, for the first time in the school’s history. Fellowship and alumni engagement have been key to this.

    Engage the community – The School of Architecture is small, but our students and faculty have made a huge impact through the more than 100 projects they have done since 2006. We are very visible and we have made a real difference.

    Judith and I hope to see many of you on campus when you come back to visit, since we are looking forward to our next chapter at Tulane. I will be able to spend much more time on the Phyllis Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking, which I founded with others and through the generous financial support of Mrs. Taylor four years ago.

    We have great hopes for the school’s future, which is very bright, and I hope that all of you will continue to support the school and our new dean in every way you can.

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