When January 2020 finally arrived, the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design was ready to begin a year of festive celebration, honoring the College's milestone 75th anniversary year. Twenty-five years prior, the College had commemorated its 50th anniversary, but the time since proved to be a game-changing period for a college many had referred to as "Houston's best-kept secret." Under the leadership of three deans, the institution's breadth of disciplines, international reach, and community impact grew, fueled by the commitment and investment of the College's namesake, Gerald D. Hines.
The anticipated 75th anniversary year began strong, kicking off with a reception welcoming new Bill Kendall Memorial Professor of Design Technologies Andrew Kudless, attended by Gerald D. Hines and friends and colleagues of Kendall. However, by March, all plans for the celebratory year halted to a standstill. The COVID-19 pandemic forced scheduled events to be put on hold and moved all academic instruction online for the foreseeable future.
"The move to completely virtual instruction was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my career," said Patricia Belton Oliver, FAIA, dean of the Hines College. "Despite the unexpected change, the shift showed how resilient and innovative the faculty are and how dedicated they are to our students and our community."
The pandemic did not hinder the Hines College from serving others. In April, the College's Burdette Keeland, Jr. Design Exploration Lab formed a partnership with Harris Health to fabricate face shields for frontline medical workers, an endeavor the lab continues to this day. By June, graduate architecture students had completed their work with the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation designing a memorial honoring the lives lost in the Santa Fe High School shooting.
With the pandemic's uncertainty, the University and College worked tirelessly through the summer to plan for a fall semester still fluctuating with each day. The summer also yielded the unfathomable deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among many other black lives, bringing to the surface the need to examine how to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive society, including at the Hines College. Dean Oliver appointed a College DEI task force that ultimately delivered its report in December 2020.
Just as the College was ready to tackle the fall semester, news broke Gerald D. Hines' passing on the first day of classes. Mr. Hines' death provided an unexpected opportunity to honor his significant impact on the College. His legacy leaves an incomparable mark on the College, its alumni, and students.
In October, the College took to the world stage, again, opening its exhibition "City of Refugees" at the Aedes Architecture Forum in Berlin, Germany. The exhibition debuted alongside international artist Ai Wei Wei's "Purgatory" and envisioned building self-sustaining and thriving refugee communities worldwide.
Despite the challenges of a global pandemic, the College was determined to celebrate its anniversary.
"This pandemic has added a different meaning to the 75th anniversary of the College," said gala chair and alumnus Arturo Chavez '90, Senior Principal at Page/. "It is much more than a celebration of architecture and design; it is a story of resilience and strength. It is a celebration to honor the past, to focus on moving forward, and to acknowledge that we will do so together."
The 75th Anniversary Gala was always part of the original plan to celebrate such a significant landmark in the College's history. Still, with the pandemic worsening and in-person events impossible, the gala was postponed to October 9, 2021.
"In my first year at the College, it was celebrating its 40th anniversary. As chair for the 75th anniversary celebration, I am proud to work with Dean Oliver and many others on this wonderful milestone," shared Chavez. "In addition to celebrating the College's 75th anniversary, we are excited to honor the Hines family. The Hines family has done so much for the College, and they deserve tremendous recognition for the positive impact their contributions have had on our students, faculty, and staff."
The Houston community is already stepping up to support the College's 75th Anniversary Gala dedicated to remembering Gerald D. Hines and honoring the Hines family. Aramco recently became the gala's first underwriter, committing to a sponsorship of $75,000 celebrating the College's 75 years. Learn more about the 75th Anniversary Gala and how you can be involved.