Updates from ASLA


In Memoriam: Richard Hawks, FASLA

A tribute by Anthony Miller, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Richard was a force in the field of landscape architecture. He was Professor and Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) from 1988 – 2013.

Among his accomplishments and awards, Richard was a Fellow of the ASLA (2000) and CELA (2008/9). He was also a member of the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF), serving on the LAF Board Emeritus Council. He created the Citizen’s Institute on Rural Design, which he co-directed for 23 years. The Institute included the National Endowment for the Arts-funded Your Town Program.

He was the only permanent academic on the CEO’s Roundtable where, according to one source, Richard was “particularly effective at representing educators and students as well as serving the profession and public.”

Richard served as vice president for education for the ASLA; as president of CELA, and served on many LAAB review teams, often as chair. He also was involved with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2019, Richard was awarded The Lifetime Achievement Award by the New York Upstate Chapter of the ASLA.

Richard received his MLA from Harvard and started as an assistant professor at ESF in 1979, where he was thrust into an overworked department. Within his first year, he was advising two off-campus groups in Britain: one in London and one in Edinburgh.

It was there I got to know Richard. I was the consultant to his London group, and we discovered we were both ESF grads, graduating a year apart. That might sound peculiar, but Richard’s class had about 20 students, while mine had 99.

When I returned to ESF in 1983 to teach, we got to know each other in a collegial way as well as friends. By this time, the landscape architecture faculty had expanded to accommodate the larger classes. Richard was a student favorite.

My Design and Inventory and Analysis studio students told me what an engaging and inspiring teacher he was, and I, to my credit, decided to “listen in.” What I learned was more than the academic content. I watched how he engaged his students and held their attention and interest. I saw how a good communicator worked, and I believe learned how to be a better teacher.

Four years later, Richard was appointed chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture, and we watched the department thrive under his leadership. Richard started the Alumni Council for alumni to provide information to faculty and students about the state of practice and trends in the professional world. He initiated the George Earle Lecture and expanded the department’s unique off-campus program. He secured backing to fund the Kennedy Distinguished Faculty Chair and Kennedy scholarships for landscape architects at ESF.

In short, the department grew and gained prominence through Richard’s efforts, which benefited the department faculty. As a result of his service to the department and College, he was designated a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor.

But, on to my memories of Richard. He was a mentor, a good colleague, and a close friend. I remember a salutary lesson Richard gave me on what ESF’s landscape architecture department was about and who it catered to. In 1992, I developed a program of Landscape Architecture at Kingston University’s Architecture School.

When l returned to ESF in 1998, I was fueled by what I saw at Kingston. I told Richard we needed to be more stringent in portfolio review for applicants. He reminded me if that were the case, I probably would not have survived such a requirement myself and that it was at ESF that I learned how to truly think about what a landscape is.

He explained we were a department with a duty to New York state’s students, not an elite design institute. We were, he said, in the unique position of being situated in a college of environmental science and forestry, a place where our field can interact and thrive. We were a place that should not try to limit our input but rather foster a broader understanding of our evolving field.

What more can I add? Richard was exceptional! As a devout Bob Dylan fan, he said he’d never been to a bad Dylan concert, and he should know. He had been to hundreds of them! He was an academic entrepreneur and a faculty and students’ rights activist. He was warm, gregarious, witty, funny, and caring. He was, as our mutual friend Keith said, “a truly good person, someone that after you spent time talking and being with him, you wanted to be a better person yourself.”

Godspeed Richard. We’ll miss you.

A memorial service to celebrate Richard’s life is to take place at Syracuse’s Plymouth Congregational Church on May 18th, 2024

Read more: Richard Hawks Obituary (1947 - 2024) - Syracuse, NY - Syracuse Post Standard

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