Published March 4, 2020
Among the first graduating class of UB's "School of Architecture and Environmental Design," Diane Georgopulos earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental design in 1973.
Inspired by the possibilities of new ways of tackling the problems of an increasingly complex and threatened world, she went on to advocate for affordable housing over the course of her nearly 30-year career.
As head of design and construction for MassHousing, the nation’s largest affordable housing finance agency, she oversaw construction lending for a $3 billion rental portfolio.
Georgopulos earned her Master of Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982.
A proud UB graduate, Georgopulos has remained closely engaged with the School of Architecture and Planning over the years. She has served on the school’s Dean’s Council since its inception in 2013. In 2017, she addressed graduates as the School of Architecture and Planning’s commencement keynote and was honored with the Dean’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the school in recognition of individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the professions of architecture and planning and to the betterment of our world.
Among her most significant professional accomplishments was development of the Elder Choice Program, a first model for state-financed, assisted living programs designed to deliver services to frail elders in a residential setting. That work received the Ford Foundation’s Innovations in American Government Award in 1995.
She more recently consulted with her state colleagues in developing design standards for the Commonwealth’s Smart Growth Zoning Overlay District Program. She also served as project manager for construction and design of the $275 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Demonstration Disposition Program, the largest single investment made in the history of that agency. Using an expansive resident participation process, the program spanned 11 developments, 167 buildings and 1,850 units of affordable family housing.
Georgopulos was recognized for this work in 2005 with the American Institute of Architects’ prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture in 2005. She is a fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
Says Georgopulos: “My work was as much about developing particular expertise in affordable housing development as much as it was helping others in need of finding decent, safe and affordable housing. This confluence of skills, interest and values was fortuitous. The advantage of going where you are needed is that when your work is done, there is a reward beyond a paycheck.”
Dean Robert Shibley, in presenting Georgopulos with the Dean’s Medal, reflected on her contributions to the profession and the school: “We honor Diane for her service to the profession and the community in Boston. But we also honor her for her role as a pioneer in our school here. She was a member of the inaugural class of undergraduate students in Environmental Design in 1970 who made a classroom in a defunct tavern on Bailey Avenue. Like her classmates she was beguiled by the lectures of Mike Brill, captivated by the concepts of systems theory, and inspired by the possibilities of new ways of tackling the problems of an increasingly complex and threatened world, ways that she brought to work with her every day of her career.”
Georgopulos recalls her time in Buffalo as formative intellectually, professionally and personally: “Buffalo in 1969 was an eventful place. It was a microcosm of everything that was happening nationally; political upheaval, disorienting academic choices, sex, drugs and rock and roll. Finding my footing in that tumult wasn’t easy. I retreated into subjects that I thought I would love; in classical archeology, art history, urban anthropology, and environmental design, which is where I ultimately found my home. There was an intellectually free environment to experiment and explore the kinds of issues and ideas that genuinely excited me.”
“I have always been very proud to be a graduate from this school and cherish the years that I spent in Buffalo,” Georgopulos continues. “I discovered so much about the person I was and wanted to become. There are life-long friends among faculty and classmates, relationships that I would not exchange for the world. People who have stood alongside me assisting, guiding, cajoling, consoling and inspiring me to go the next step.”