Meet our Alumni: Gary Jastrzab (BA '76)

Gary Jastrzab.
  • Bachelor of Arts, Environmental Design, 1976
  • Executive Director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission
  • Board Member, UB Alumni Association
  • Member, John Eberhard Society, which recognizes those who donate $1,000 or more annually to the School of Architecture and Planning

My current role

“I serve as the Executive Director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. After graduating from UB, I worked for two years doing planning-related work in Washington, D.C., and the Philadelphia area. I then returned to school to get a Master of City Planning degree at the University of Pennsylvania. I started working for the Philadelphia Planning Commission in my last semester of classes as a consultant, and was then hired to the staff. Over the years I have held a variety of positions before being appointed Executive Director.”

My favorite accomplishments
Over the past eight years, the planning commission has prepared a new Zoning Code and undertaken a new citywide Comprehensive Plan, both for the first time in 50 years. A third component of this initiative, the Citizens Planning Institute, is the Commission’s education and outreach arm, encouraging city residents to engage more proactively in planning their neighborhoods. My favorite accomplishment has been reorganizing, institutionalizing and raising the bar for the City’s planning process over the past seven years.

“Through a variety of public, private, and institutional efforts, Philadelphia is experiencing a building boom, its population is increasing after decades of decline, and neighborhoods long overlooked are experiencing housing and commercial reinvestment. In 2013, the Commission received the American Planning Association’s National Planning Award for a Best Practice in recognition of this work.”

How UB shaped my career 
My undergraduate experience at UB provided a broad education and exposed me to new ideas and people during a formative time in my life. The University, and the School of Architecture and Planning specifically, provided me with a broad knowledge base, a variety of analytical skills, and exposed me to the systems approach to thinking about and solving problems. These have all served me well in my career.”

My life on campus

“When I attended UB, Hayes Hall was the university’s main administration building, so I was only in the building once or twice during my undergraduate years. The School of Architecture and Environmental Design, as it was known then, was located in the former Buffalo Meter Building, near Main Street and Hertel Avenue, adjacent to Bennett High School. I spent a great deal of time there. I remember fondly those long hours spent in the Meter Building working on projects and the camaraderie developed with classmates as we progressed through the two years of the Environmental Design program.”

“My best advice to students: Take every advantage to get practical experience through internships or community work.” 

Why I choose to donate to the school
“I believe that it’s important to give back to the institutions that helped you become who you are now. My donation to the school is simply one way of supporting the continued success and prestige of the School of Architecture and Planning and entire University.”

My best advice to students

“In addition to the knowledge and technical skills gained through academic work, take every advantage to get practical experience through internships or community work. Developing good communications skills through writing and graphic presentations are also very important as you move into the professional world.”