|William G. McMinn Awarded 2006 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion|
by Russell Boniface
Architect and professor William G. McMinn, FAIA, has been named the 2006 recipient of the Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education by the AIA Board and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA).
The AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion honors an individual who has made outstanding contributions to architecture education for at least 10 years, whose teaching has influenced a broad range of students, and who has helped shape the minds of those who will shape our environment. The award will be presented at the ACSA annual meeting in late March 2006 in Salt Lake City and in early June at the 2006 AIA National Convention in Los Angeles.
In nominating McMinn for the Topaz Medallion, John McRae, FAIA, dean of the University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design, stated, “Bill McMinn has, throughout his career, served as a strong bridge between practice and education. His vision has always been to provide a seamless transition between the two realms . . . with thoughtful, engaging, and productive action, while serving with humility and grace.”
and soul of FIU
“Students learn so much from each other, sometimes more than from faculty,” McMinn said in an interview with Florida International University Magazine. “Faculty sets the climate, leads discussions, but the testing process is with each individual student and with their peer groups. A design project is a series of experiences. You’re competitive and sharing. There’s an intensive glue in the architecture and design field.” McMinn’s work at FIU earned him the Educational Leadership Award in Architecture from the AIA Miami Chapter.
“I have known dozens of deans,” commented Modesto A. Maidique, FIU president, in his nomination letter. “Seldom have I found one with the passion, dedication, and sophistication that Bill exhibited during his tenure.”
McMinn’s 13 years of service at Cornell University began in 1984. As dean of its College of Architecture, Art and Planning, the oldest program in the U.S., McMinn was instrumental in establishing an undergraduate program in planning, strengthening all graduate programs, and increasing graduate support funding. He developed alumni interest by appointing an international college board of advisors; completed a five-year, $22 million fund-raising campaign; upgraded educational technology; and instituted a study-abroad program in Rome. He also served on the Cornell University Council and the board of governors at the Cornell Center for the Environment.
McMinn’s international achievements include his appointment by the U.S. State Department as a consultant to the School of Architecture at the University of Jordan, in Amman; establishing a School of Design at King Fahd University in Saudi Arabia; and improving the curricula at Mimar Sinan University in Istanbul, Turkey. McMinn is also a fellow of the American Academy in Rome.
A tidal wave of admiration
Michael Kerwin, AIA, president of AIA Miami, offered strong support of McMinn’s nomination: “Dean McMinn embodies the principles that the Topaz Medallion was created to recognize. The list of his accomplishments continues to be a source of inspiration for all of us.”
And Sharon Carter Matthews, AIA, executive director of the NAAB, stated, “I see him on teams, every year—practicing the same magic: leadership in the invention and support of new programs, support of scholarship, ability to balance abstract thinking and pragmatic action, and his understanding of the necessity for both competition and collaboration.”
Since stepping down from his position at FIU, McMinn’s accomplishments continue to inspire. He was appointed professional advisor of a national architectural competition for the design of a $20–$30 million Performing and Visual Arts Center in Hendersonville, N.C., which attracted 58 entries from around the nation. In 2004, he was designated as special architectural consultant to the provost of the University of South Florida in Tampa to identify candidates for the position of dean of the School of Architecture there. He also continues his much-respected long-term work with NAAB.