Buffalo in Chicago: Alumni and Friends Gather to Celebrate Dean Robert Shibley's AIA Honor

Dean Shibley accepts the Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture, presented at the AIA National Convention in Chicago by AIA President Helene Combs Dreiling and AIA Executive Director Robert Ivey.

By Rachel Teaman

Published July 3, 2014

The 2014 AIA National Convention was the setting for "Buffalo in Chicago," a celebratory gathering of alumni, friends, current students and School of Architecture and Planning leaders in honor of Dean Robert Shibley, a 2014 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture.

Presented to Shibley at the convention, the top AIA honor recognizes his contributions to design excellence in service to the public through more than 40 years of teaching, scholarship and critical practice. An architect and planner, Shibley, FAIA, has held roles in federal, state and municipal government. His career with the University at Buffalo began in 1982 and today includes the roles of UB's campus architect and director of the UB Regional Institute, a leading planning and policy research center. 

In addition to dozens of alumni and friends, Buffalo in Chicago attendees included Omar Khan, associate professor and chair of architecture, and two founding members of the School of Architecture and Planning Dean's Council: Diane Georgopulos (BA '73) and Clark Manus (BA '74).

Georgopulos, who directs the design and construction department for MassHousing, the country’s leading affordable housing finance agency, said Shibley's influence on the University at Buffalo and the Buffalo region cannot be understated. "I can't think of an individual more deserving of this award than Bob," she said, citing his influence in revitalizing Buffalo and fostering rich learning environments across the UB campus. 

Indeed, Shibley’s leadership of award-winning plans that have laid the groundwork for Buffalo's renaissance and elevated public expectations for design and planning were among the contributions highlighted by the AIA jury. Shibley has also overseen UB's campus planning effort and more than $1 billion in capital investment across its three campuses, perhaps most notably UB's emerging downtown campus. 

Shibley says it's not lost on him the irony of handing an individual an award for advancing architecture and design for the public. 

"You really can't hand an individual an award for public architecture. It's an oxymoron. This is all team sport," said Shibley. Spanning three decades, the collaborative plan-making efforts for Buffalo and, more recently, for UB reflect the input of thousands of community stakeholders and bear the imprint of students, faculty and staff across the university, including several of those in the room that night.  

Referencing a comment made by AIA Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivey during his presentation of the Thomas Jefferson Awards, Shibley says the idea that architecture is ultimately about people and place gets to the heart of the School of Architecture and Planning's foundational legacy, a legacy that School of Architecture and Planning graduates carry forth globally through diverse modes of practice.  

"As I travel the country and world and meet our graduates, what I find are people who understand this as a matter of course and then take it to the next level," said Shibley, addressing the alumni gathering that included founding principals of award-winning practices, senior leaders of multi-national firms, public sector architects, entrepreneurs and scholars.  

"You bring a distinct design sensibility and way of thinking that makes me proud to be a small part of this university and school," Shibley said. 

The Buffalo in Chicago reception also offered alumni and friends the opportunity to network and learn about some of the latest developments at the School of Architecture and Planning, including the restoration of our historic home in Hayes Hall on UB's South Campus and UB's entry into the elite Solar Decathlon competition, for which faculty and students in architecture, engineering and management will design and build the "GRoW House," a zero-energy, solar-powered home. (Follow "GRoW Buffalo" on Facebook).

Alumnus Susan Goldberg (MArch '80) said the event rekindled her pride in the School of Architecture and Planning spirit. "It was wonderful being amongst accomplished alumni , emerging professionals and students – seeing that UB maintains the same quality of education, excitement and innovation as when I was a student."

I have felt that the support to pursue ideas and the 'sky’s the limit' philosophy have stayed with me throughout my professional career," added Goldberg, who current serves as deputy director of the City of Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency in Hollywood, FL.