The School of Architecture and Planning held a celebratory send-off for the 223 members of its Class of 2015, the School’s 43rd commencement at UB’s Center for the Arts.
With 133 taking home degrees in architecture and 90 in planning, the school’s newest alumni celebrated their accomplishments with family and friends and a long line of distinguished guests from the university and local professional community. UB Provost Charles “Chip” Zukoski conferred degrees and addressed graduates, while among the platform party were representatives of the SUNY Board of Trustees, UB Council and UB Foundation board of directors, as well as several members of UB’s senior leadership.
Dean Robert Shibley said the Class of 2015 has contributed to one of the most productive and celebrated periods in the school’s recent history. Consider that students are at work putting the finishing touches on a solar-powered home as UB competes in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2015 Solar Decathlon. The restoration and reconstruction of the school’s historic home – Hayes Hall –the largest capital investment ever in the school’s facilities, has entered its final stage. Meanwhile, both the architecture and planning departments recently received resoundingly positive reviews from their respective accrediting boards.
“As you head off on your next adventure, remember you are a vital part of this work and the legacy of our school and university,” said Shibley.
Howard Zemsky, the recently appointed head of Empire State Development, New York State’s economic development corporation, delivered the keynote addressed and accepted the 2015 Dean’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the school.
Since 2011, Zemsky has served as co-chair of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, engaging thousands of regional citizens in envisioning a more sustainable regional economy and building an award-winning strategic plan. In this role, he has also worked closely on the Governor's Buffalo Billion revitalization initiative. His company, Larkin Development Group, has redeveloped approximately 1 million square feet of historic building space in Buffalo since 2002, with a particular focus on reclaiming Buffalo’s earliest industrial neighborhood, the Larkin Historic District.
Noting the school’s active engagement in much of this work, Zemsky praised the Class of 2015 for their role in Buffalo’s current renaissance and for being “game-changers” for the region and for architecture and planning.
“You’ve changed Western New York’s world. How great is it to be in a community that after a long dormancy has so demonstrably turned a corner…and that is receiving national and international attention and praise for its turnaround. That’s us, here in this room. Your UB Regional Institute played a pivotal role in advancing a strategic [economic development] vision.”
Of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $1 billion commitment to the region, he said: “Folks, that was not manna from heaven; it was a resounding vote of confidence in the work of this region and school.”
Referring to UB’s entry into the Solar Decathlon, a solar-powered home that will produce more energy than it consumes, Zemsky said: “Taking net consumers and turning them into net producers? That’s what I call a game-changer.”
In presenting Zemsky with the Dean’s Medal, which recognizes individuals who have made distinguished contributions to our professions, region and world, Shibley said Zemsky has been at the center of the region’s rebirth.
“Today we honor an individual who has put much of this in motion, largely by working behind the scenes to cultivate partnerships and build buy-in around our existing assets and strategic strengths as a region.”
Added Shibley: “Ultimately, this work is modeling recovery strategies for legacy cities across the state and throughout the United States."