Posted June 11, 2020
  • Comberg, DiBonaventura, Landis, and Yaro

A Message from Dean Steiner: David Comberg, Cathy DiBonaventura, John Landis, and Bob Yaro

Dear colleagues and students,

The end of the academic year is always replete with goodbyes, as the graduating class moves on to the next phase of professional life, and continuing students and faculty members take up other commitments for the summer. This year, we are also saying goodbye to four members of the Weitzman community who have had an enormous impact on the School and who are retiring from Penn as of July 1: David Comberg, Cathy DiBonaventura, John Landis, and Bob Yaro.

David Comberg is a graphic designer and senior lecturer in Undergraduate Fine Arts and Design. Since joining the Department of Fine Arts in 2003, David earned admiration from students and colleagues alike for his passionate teaching, collaborative spirit, and generosity. His Graphic Design Practicum introduced students to clients across Penn and Philly, and they produced the graphics for several Year End Shows. As Matt Neff, director of Undergraduate Fine Arts and Design, wrote recently, “David gave students latitude and space to find their voices, gain agency, and develop platforms for their ideas while teaching them essential hands-on design skills.” David was a founding member of the endlessly inventive Common Press, serving as faculty advisor and project manager since 2006. He also maintains a professional practice through which he has produced many striking publications, graphic identities, and ephemera for the Department of Fine Arts, including a suite of beautifully designed Silverstein Travel Studio catalogs.

Cathy DiBonaventura, director of Information Technology Services, leaves Penn after 30 years of service, 20 of them at Weitzman. Strategic, resourceful, and a tireless champion for the School, Cathy transformed our IT Department from a decentralized system for ordering computers and printers to an ever-expanding array of essential services for more than 750 students, 200 faculty, and 60 staff. Along the way, she led the implementation of large-scale initiatives like two-factor authentication and the transition to 0ffice 365. She has supported the School’s growing research agenda and data collection initiatives, has always looked for new ways to support students, and has been a widely respected senior IT leader on campus, serving on various University-wide committees and panels. As if she did not already have a reputation for exacting standards and dedication, Cathy had announced her retirement for March 31 and then graciously extended her tenure to support our community through the transition to online learning.

John Landis joined the Department of City and Regional Planning in 2007 and held the Crossways Professorship in City and Regional Planning throughout his tenure at Penn. Serving  as chair from 2008 until 2017, John strengthened the department’s standing as one of the leading programs in the country, was instrumental in securing new research funding, developing innovative new programs and concentrations, and recruiting an outstanding faculty. Widely published, John has shed light on a myriad of critical urban development topics, most recently metropolitan equity, neighborhood change, affordable housing, sprawl and growth management, and smart cities technologies. John taught Planning Theory, Introduction to Property Development, Progressive Development, and Urban Development & Infrastructure Finance, earning the 2012 G. Holmes Perkins Distinguished Teaching Award for Standing Faculty. Here’s what one of his students had to say at the time: “It is obvious that teaching is his passion; he asks the big questions and challenges his students to think creatively and comprehensively about society's biggest problems.”

A veteran city planner and go-to authority on land use, urban development, and infrastructure planning, Bob Yaro has been professor of practice in the Department of City and Regional Planning since 2002. In 2004, Bob identified the emergence of 11 megaregions across the United States, and went on to lead seminars and studios on planning for emerging megaregions in the US, Spain, the United Kingdom, China, Singapore and Morocco. He has taught seminars and studios in which students proposed a surface transit system for New York City’s outer boroughs, a strategic plan for the Jing-Jin-Ji megaregion around Beijing and Tianjin, China, and a national transportation investment strategy for the United States. From 1990 through 2014, he also led the Regional Plan Association, the influential metropolitan research and advocacy group, and subsequently led Rebooting New England, an initiative to build a high-performance rail network between New York and Boston, and he co-chairs the New York-New Jersey Metropolitan Storm Surge Working Group.

A few paragraphs can hardly do justice to their profound and lasting contributions to our School, but we thank David, Cathy, John, and Bob for their exemplary service to Weitzman and to Penn. Most important, though, is that we’re saying “Goodbye,” but not “Farewell,” because all four will always be part of the Weitzman family.