For more than 30 years, the Will and Nan Clarkson Visiting Chair program has invited distinguished scholars and professionals to campus for lectures and seminars that engage students, faculty, practitioners and members of the public in knowledge-sharing, scholarship and debate on critical issues in architecture, planning and design.
Will Clarkson was a former chairman and chief executive officer of Graphic Controls, for many years one of Buffalo’s largest public, multinational companies. Clarkson joined the school community in 1980 as an adjunct professor in urban and regional planning. In 1991, Will and his wife, Nan, bestowed the gift that endowed the Clarkson Chair, a program that continues to enrich the life of our School. Since its founding, the program has supported 50 visiting chairs, all on the leading edges of research and practice in our professions.
Will and Nan were also dedicated to the Buffalo community and spent much of their lifetime giving back through generous support of causes as diverse as education, Buffalo's downtown and neighborhood development, as well as the studio and performing arts. Will and Nan had a particularly deep passion for Buffalo architecture. In 2011, they donated a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed art glass window to the Martin House Restoration Corporation for display in the reconstructed carriage house of the Martin House complex. The window was only one of two to survive after the original carriage house was demolished in 1962. Will Clarkson was instrumental in the production and publishing of “Buffalo Architecture: A Guide" in 1981, which continues to shape the city's historic preservation movement. He also chaired the Main Genesee Design Task Group in the 1980s, which led to the creation of Fountain Plaza downtown.
Sadly, Will passed away in 2018 and Nan in 2020. Steadfast friends of the School, both Will and Nan could always be seen in the front row of the Hayes Hall lecture hall for the Clarkson lectures. The couple hosted many of our guests at their home for dinner and continued conversation. We will miss them and remember Will and Nan fondly always for their generous support of our program and for their contributions to public dialogue across the design and planning professions.