The Rewards of Teaching

I often get as much pleasure and satisfaction from seeing the extraordinary successes of former students as I do from my own endeavors.  I was reminded of this a couple weekends ago while attending the National Advisory Council meeting at Cranbrook.  Reed Kroloff has been the director there for the last seven years, was previously dean of architecture at Tulane University and prior to that, editor-in-chief of Architecture magazine.  I’ve watched his career with great interest and satisfaction.

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Reed was a very promising student when I first met him as he was entering graduate school at University of Texas at Austin.  He was a freshly minted Yale undergrad who had always been super-successful at whatever he did, but he was struggling a bit.  At one point, he considered dropping out of architecture school entirely, but I advised him to stay and encouraged him to consider the many different roles one can play within the architectural profession.

Reed was incredibly perceptive, wrote and spoke beautifully, and he could think and understand architecture better than any student I had ever come across.  Because he wasn’t thrilled with studio work, he was frustrated and thought maybe he didn’t fit.  I wanted Reed to see himself as a thought leader because he was and still is.

At the time I was editing an issue of the journal, Center, a publication of the Center for Architecture and Design, and Reed wrote a piece for it on high-rise regionalism.  It was brilliant.  Happy to say, Reed stayed and was my teaching assistant for many semesters.

After leaving UT, Reed started teaching at Arizona State and found a niche for himself.  He taught a big lecture course similar to my own Architecture and Society course and opened it to non-major students as well.  He started writing about architecture for the Arizona Republic.  From Arizona State, Reed moved to Washington DC and became an associate editor at Architecture magazine, then moved to New York and became editor, then on to Tulane and Cranbrook.

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Reed hit the ground running when he arrived at Cranbrook (much as he had at Tulane before that).  His incredible energy and ambition is a positive, forceful quality that radiates to others working around him. When Reed got there, Cranbrook looked a bit run down and dowdy.  Initially, he hired two new artists-in-residence as faculty which significantly energized things.  Soon, they completely renovated the famous Eliel Saarinen museum building and added a new wing with storage and curatorial spaces.  They embarked on an ambitious exhibitions agenda and stepped up their education and community outreach programs.

Reed also started the National Advisory Council (NAC), giving Cranbrook more reach nationally and a core of people to invest with them.  Today, the school is worlds ahead of where it was before.  Their communications program has been ramped up, both with alumni and the broader world, and now two new websites are about to be launched.  The place has made a quantum jump.  Reed would credit this to everyone around him, but we all know it wouldn’t have happened without him.  At the weekend gathering, members of the NAC passed the hat to establish an endowment in Reed’s name.  He was completely surprised and blushed at its announcement.

I’ve taken this opportunity to reflect on the great success of one former student.  But I have to say that in my years of teaching, I can think easily of another 15 or 20 who have also made a very big mark with their careers.  It’s incredibly satisfying to witness that.  There are also hundreds of others about whom I’m tremendously proud for what they have done.

Thinking about Life as an Architect
Posted June 12, 2014