After nearly two decades of leadership, School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65 is reportedly planning to step down.
Five faculty and administrative staff members at the School of Architecture said that Stern will retire from the school when his term as dean concludes in Spring 2016. Professor Michelle Addington added that he has also been a major influence on her own approach to architecture.
“[Stern] took [the school] from a place where people were not paying attention to it many years ago — he has brought incredible international attention to the school,” Addington said. “He has given me the opportunity to rethink my subject, and that doesn’t happen at too many places.”
University President Peter Salovey and Provost Benjamin Polak could not be reached for comment.
Prior to assuming the deanship, Stern had been an architecture professor at Yale and the director of the Historic Preservation program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. He has also authored several books, including “Modern Classicism” and “New Directions in American Architecture.”
Addington highlighted the school’s advancements under Stern’s administration. She explained that the current number of tenured faculty at the school is the highest in its history, adding that the school also has more tenured female faculty members than any other architecture school in the country.
Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen ARC ’94, an associate professor at the Yale School of Architecture, said that before Stern assumed his position, the school was severely lacking in facilities and technological resources, noting that the school no longer suffers from such deficiencies. She added that Stern also instituted periodical faculty meetings and a faculty promotion process, neither of which existed before he became dean.
Kurt Forster, director of doctoral studies at the School of Architecture, noted that Stern was a major influence in the development of the school’s Ph.D. program. He explained that the program did not exist before Stern asked him to design one. Forster said he thinks of Stern’s decision to create a Ph.D. program as an “extremely brave and far-sighted thing to do,” given the fact that the school had flourished without such a program.
Special Assistant to the President and Master of Jonathan Edwards College Penelope Laurans highlighted Stern’s personality and his influence on the Yale Community.
“Dean Stern has brought the spectrum of the architectural world to Yale and vivified the school, making it a top choice among architectural aspirants,” Laurans said. “In particular he loves Yale and has devoted himself to the School of Architecture, reviving it and lavishing on it all his well-known talent and energy.”
School of Architecture students interviewed said that Stern’s presence has profoundly impacted their experience at the school.
Preeti Talwar ARC ’16 said that Stern’s energy and involvement in the school’s academic and social spheres played a huge role in encouraging her to attend Yale.
“I feel fortunate to be among the last class at the School of Architecture that will experience his enthusiasm, immense experience and passion for both the profession and its pedagogy,” Talwar said.
Alicia Pozniak ARC ’16 said that she is greatly inspired by Stern’s commitment to education and to educating architects about the actual built and concrete reality of architecture in the world today. Pozniak added that Stern’s vision has made the School of Architecture stand for a belief in a “more positive and long-lasting” architecture for society.
Abdulgader Samier Naseer ARC ’16, who has both worked and studied under Stern, said that he has had a very pleasant experience with Stern. Naseer recalled that as an intern at Stern’s New York City firm, Robert A.M. Stern Architects, he was treated by Stern as more of an equal than a subordinate. Naseer, who is currently enrolled in Stern’s “Pedagogy and Place” class, said he thinks that Stern also takes a personable approach in his teaching.
“[Stern] never preaches to us,” Naseer said. “He wants us to engage and challenge him, instead of just listen to what he has to say.”
Administrative staff members interviewed said they were not aware of any ongoing search process for a successor to Stern.
Constantin Geanakoplos ’15 said he does not currently have any specific individual that he would like to replace Stern as the school’s dean, but noted that he respected Stern most for his open-minded approach to architectural thought and hopes that the environment that Stern created with this mentality will be preserved by his successor.
Stern was awarded the Richard H. Driehaus Prize at the University of Notre Dame in 2011.