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From Meyerson Hall to the Meyerson Chair in Urbanism
PennDesign’s thought leadership in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and planning since the early 20th century is widely acknowledged, but has not always been well documented. In a September 2018 article for the Journal of Planning Education and Research, Eugenie Birch, Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research and chair of the graduate group in the Department of City and Regional Planning, profiles longtime faculty member Martin Meyerson. Following is an excerpt from that article, published as part of a series of “distinguished educator profiles.”
From Meyerson Hall to the Meyerson Chair in Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, one sees the marks of Martin Meyerson, FAICP (1922–2007), the 1996 ACSP Distinguished Educator. However, Meyerson’s influence on city and regional planning goes well beyond Philadelphia, the city in which he spent nearly four decades of his professional life. His many contributions to planning education and practice are reflected in the ACSP’s Martin Meyerson Award for Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education, created in 2005, and a fest-schrift in volume 10, issue 3 of the Journal of Planning History.
Meyerson’s influence on the field is immense but understudied, perhaps because his career was bifurcated between planning and higher education administration. While he devoted more than a quarter century to active participation in planning in the United States and abroad (1942–1966), he spent another two decades presiding over (and transforming) three major universities—UC Berkeley, SUNY/ Buffalo, and the University of Pennsylvania. He subsequently played an influential role in higher education globally, assuming a professorship in city planning at Penn from 1981 to 2007.
One theme flows through Meyerson’s life: reliance on his training in planning that cultivated a belief in the power of utopian visions revised by research and field experience, refined through community discussion, and acted on by informed leaders. He was, to coin an expression, a pragmatic utopian, who learned from more senior colleagues such as Lewis Mumford and David Reisman and shared his knowl.edge with his many students, including Herbert Gans, John Friedman, and Janet Abu Lhugod. He inspired and worked with armies of urbanists, including Kevin Lynch, Edward Banfield, McGeorge Bundy, Nathan Glazer, Daniel Moynihan, Catherine Bauer, Harvey Perloff, William Wurster, William Wheaton, Charles Haar, Lloyd Rodwin, Richard Llewlyn Davies, Constantine Doxiadis, Jacqueline Trywhitt, Kenzo Tange, and Lloyd Rodwin. Above all, he was a man who made connections, cultivated networks, and built institutions in the service of the field.