Celebrating the Power of Design and the Class of 2017
Nearly 300 Master’s and PhD degrees were presented on Monday afternoon under a sunlit tent on Meyerson Plaza at PennDesign’s 2017 Commencement Ceremony. Capping off a weekend’s worth of festivities that began on Friday with a reception for the Year End Show for design graduates, the ceremony was led by Dean and Paley Professor Fritz Steiner, who shared the podium with Dr. Mindy Fullilove, who gave the Commencement Address; alumnus and Overseer Mark Gardner (MArch’00), who congratulated gradates on behalf of the Board of Overseers; PennDesign Alumni Association President Stuart Mardeusz (MArch’95); and the department and graduate group chairs.
“The very act of design is an optimistic activity,” Dean Steiner told graduates in his remarks. “A premise of design is that we can improve things, conditions, and futures—finer bicycles and fitter cities.” The dean wore the hat given to him by former colleagues at the UT School of Architecture, explaining, “It’s fitting to Philadelphia, where so many Stetsons were made for so many years.”
A widely-published psychiatrist and Professor of Urban Policy and Health at Parsons School of Design, Dr. Fullilove offered words to orient graduates in their new life in society, citing “the growing gridlock of problems we can’t seem to name or solve.”
Dr. Fullilove explained: “We are facing inequality in wealth likely to outstrip anything this country has ever seen. Each year breaks records for heat, as we settle into the challenges of changed climate. And expressions of hate have become a part of the daily pattern of national and international life.”
Dr. Fullilove went on to praise graduates for their talents in art and design, urging them, “you who see the possibilities in emptiness are the ones who can teach us how to come back together.”
Degrees awarded included the Master of Architecture (120), Master of Science in Architecture (6), Master of Environmental Building Design (6), Master of City Planning (56), Master of Fine Arts (16), Master of Science in Historic Preservation (28), Master of Landscape Architecture (42), Master of Urban Spatial Analytics (13), Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture (4) and Doctor of Philosophy in City Planning (5). Ten students earned dual degrees and 56 certificates were awarded. (Numbers are subject to verification by the registrar next month.) Students in the graduating class range in age from 22 to 50, and represent 30 states and 22 countries.
On Sunday afternoon, the School held the 2017 Awards Ceremony, featuring an address by Graham Chair Professor of Architecture and Weiss/Manfredi Co-founder Marion Weiss. Department chairs then presented graduates with more than 60 awards—many of them established to honor alumni, past or current faculty of the School—for academic achievement, design excellence, commitment to ecological and social ideals, summer internships or travel.
A faculty member for more than two decades, Weiss described the pragmatism that characterizes a Penn education, the interconnectedness of PennDesign’s programs, and influence that its faculty has had on her and so many.
“Our collective capacity as designers to impact the future of the built environment stands on the shoulders of remarkable PennDesign faculty that have preceded us. International heroes and heroines, [they] changed the fields they emerged from and impacted the global imagination of what design can do,” said Weiss, naming Denise Scott Brown, Robert Venturi, Ian McHarg, Lou Kahn, and Romaldo Giurgola.