Updates from ASLA


In Memoriam: Donald H. Tompkins, FASLA

Image of Donald H. Tompkins, FASLA

Donald H. Tompkins, FASLA,
January 28, 1937 – June 14, 2023

Born in Inglewood (CA) in 1937, Don was the third of Dorothy & Sterling Tompkins’ four children. From an early age, he developed a love of nature and the outdoors. The first botanical name he ever learned was that of the iconic California fan palms (Washingtonia robusta) that graced his street! When the family moved to 11 acres of land along the Santa Margarita River in Fallbrook (CA) in 1946, Don thrived as a self-described “country boy”, where he learned to fish, participated in 4H, and worked alongside his father in the family’s River Road Nursery, where they raised camellias and exotic plants.

In 1954, Don left Fallbrook to study Horticulture at California State Polytechnic College (Voorhees campus) with the idea of following his father into the nursery business. But then tragedy struck. In 1956, a raging fire started by a careless public utility worker destroyed everything the Tompkins had built, including their home and nursery. Nothing remained of their 11-acre property, except for the stone chimney. Devastated, Don returned to school, and in 1957, when Cal Poly opened its new Kellogg campus in Pomona, Don transferred there, embarking upon a new course of study… Landscape Architecture. He received his
Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from California State University, Pomona in 1958. A Master of Landscape Architecture from Harvard University, Graduate School of Design followed in 1962.

During his 55-year career, Don dedicated himself to a wide range of multi-disciplinary projects involving environmental assessment, comprehensive land use planning, new community development, urban design, urban renewal, and urban infrastructure systems. Prior to opening his own consulting business, he proudly worked alongside many of the profession’s “greats” at Courtland Paul and Associates (1958-60), William L. Pereira and Associates (1962-64), Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (1964-70), EDAW Inc. (AECOM) (1970-75), and The SWA Group (1975-91). In 1991, he launched T3 Concepts. For the past three decades, he worked almost exclusively with the Morrison Family of Gilbert (AZ) to transform their 3,000-acre farm into an award-winning, mixed-use, master-planned community.

A member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) since 1974, Don became a Fellow in the Society, the highest honor in the profession bestowed on an ASLA member, in recognition of exceptional accomplishments over a sustained period. He was also a two-term former President of the Southern California Chapter of ASLA. While serving in the role of Chapter Awards Chair, Don felt strongly about rebranding the chapter’s design awards, forever renaming the biennial program…. The Quality-of-Life Design Awards.

In a class all his own, Don will be remembered as one of the “great ones” and will be missed by the profession and his colleagues. Whether you were a student, a landscape architect, or administrative professional, he was a wonderful influence and mentor to so many. Truly a great leader, “clarity, simplicity, and honesty” were Don’s hallmarks.

To his family, Don was wise yet humble, kind, and always encouraging. He enjoyed travel, photography, and gardening. In recent years, he and Carole enjoyed breakfast several times a week at Zinc in Laguna Beach, where they often ran into friends (including former SWA colleagues!) He and Carole would have celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary in July.

Don is survived by his wife Carole; daughter Susan and her husband David (Watkins), along with grandchildren Calais and Nicole; sister Nancy (Mosher) and brother Howard.

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