Honoring the 2023 GSD Alumni Council Award Winners
The Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) is pleased to announce Edwin “Teddy” Cruz MDes ’97, Shaun Donovan AB ’87, MPA ’95, MArch ’95, William “Bill” Johnson MLA ’57, Frank Christopher Lee MAUD ’79, and Cathy Simon MArch ’69 as the 2023 recipients of the Harvard GSD Alumni Award. In its third year, the award honors outstanding leadership by GSD alumni, underscoring the essential role GSD graduates play in leading change around the world. Founded and led by the GSD Alumni Council, the award recognizes and celebrates the diversity, leadership, range, and impact of GSD alumni within their communities and across their areas of practice.
A celebration of the winners will take place during the 2024 GSD Comeback: Alumni & Friends Celebration next fall.
“The GSD looks at design in all its forms, including leadership, social justice, and activism, and the Alumni Award winners have all exhibited lifelong commitments to this wide-ranging view of the field,” said Jennifer Esposito MArch ’12, associate at Superkül and co-chair of the Alumni Award jury. “Whether advocating for women in the profession or pursuing nontraditional forms of practice and education, they are true pioneers of design.”
“This award recognizes wide leadership in design thinking, connection to the GSD experience, and exemplifying the values of the school,” said Thomas Luebke MArch ’91, Secretary of the US Commission of Fine Arts and co-chair of the Alumni Award jury. “We’re incredibly gratified to honor Teddy, Shaun, Bill, Frank, and Cathy with this award, as their remarkable contributions and leadership have made the world a better place.
Teddy Cruz is a professor of public culture and urbanization in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego, and a principal in Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman, a research-based political and architectural practice in San Diego. He is known internationally for his urban research on the Tijuana/San Diego border, advancing border neighborhoods as sites of cultural production from which to rethink urban policy, affordable housing, and public space. His honors include the Rome Prize in Architecture in 1991, the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award in 2011, a 2013 Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the 2018 Vilcek Prize in Architecture.
“It is a great honor to be recognized by one’s peers, and in this case being acknowledged by my peers from the GSD,” Cruz said. “This recognition resonates with their commitment to expanding the design field and architectural education, theoretically and practically, to address the most urgent societal, economic, and environmental urgencies of our times, and the role architects can play in producing refreshed aesthetic and socio-spatial paradigms for advancing urban justice.”
Shaun Donovan has dedicated his life to public service, with a focus on building opportunity and fighting for people and communities too often left behind. Donovan joined the Ford Foundation as a Senior Fellow in August 2022, working with the Biden administration and partners across the country to build community capacity to ensure the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law reaches its transformative potential, especially in historically disadvantaged communities. Donovan is also a Senior Fellow at the World Resources Institute, where he is working with international humanitarian organizations to incorporate climate resilience into their work. Previously, he launched an ideas-driven campaign for mayor in his hometown of New York and served as Director of the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama administration.
“As a ‘lapsed architect’ who pursued a career in the nonprofit world and public service, I believe this award shows that a design education can be powerful preparation to reimagine careers beyond the traditional design professions,” Donovan said. “I will always be grateful to the GSD for changing the way I see the world and challenging me to go make it better.”
Bill Johnson has focused on environmental design issues throughout his 60-year career as a planner, designer, teacher, and academic administrator. His contributions emphasize the search for contextual fit, harmony, and community involvement in a range of problem-solving initiatives. In 1963, Bill was a cofounder of Johnson, Johnson and Roy (JJR), a multi-office, international design practice that later merged with the SmithGroup. He also served as a professor of landscape architecture (1968–1988) and as dean of the School of Natural Resources (1975–1983) at the University of Michigan. In 1992, Johnson, Johnson and Roy merged temporarily with PWP Landscape Architects, the firm of Harvard classmate Peter Walker MLA ’57. Following the completion of this Berkeley-based partnership, Bill has maintained an active consulting practice as well as a vigorous career in oil painting.
“Receiving an award of this kind is an honor beyond easy description. To be sure, any such award given by one’s peers is special indeed, and I thank all who helped make it happen!” Johnson said. “I remember so well at the end of my GSD experience when I received a surprise award, the Charles Eliot Traveling Fellowship. Now, 67 years later, another surprise GSD award is given to me. It’s a full-circle sense of completeness, and it is a great honor to receive the 2023 GSD Alumni Award. I will cherish its meaning for the rest of my life.”
Upon his graduation from the GSD, Frank Christopher Lee returned to Chicago to hone his craft working for Helmut Jahn. Four years later, he helped form the award-winning firm Johnson & Lee, Ltd. One of the major tenets of the firm was to assist communities that were underserved by the design community. Frank has participated on juries and lectured throughout America and Canada. About 13 years ago, Frank noticed that the number of African American students at the GSD had decreased, which prompted him to seek admission to the Alumni Council. During his 10-year tenure, he focused on recruitment efforts at the school and the Council itself, which resulted in a considerable increase in the number of African American students applying, being admitted, and accepting the offer of admission.
“I truly appreciate that my efforts have been acknowledged by the GSD community,” Lee said. “One can never underestimate the impact that GSD had on my career. I am very grateful.”
Cathy Simon’s 50-year career has focused on transformative design at all scales. Her award-winning work comprises design for higher and secondary education, including buildings at the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, and Bard College. Her institutional master plans include two (2008 and 2017) for Bard College, Harvard Futures in Allston, Stanford in Redwood City, and NYU Builds 2031. In 1985, Cathy founded SMWM, a pioneering women-owned architecture and urban design firm with offices in San Francisco and New York; in 2008, the firm merged with Perkins + Will, where she served as a senior design principal. She was elevated into the AIA’s College of Fellows in 1986, served as the Chair of the GSD Alumni Council from 1993 to 1997, and received the honor of the William A. Bernoudy Architect in Residence at the American Academy in Rome in 2015. Cathy has taught architecture at both Stanford and UC Berkeley.
“This important award recognizes my significant work as an award-winning pioneering (woman) architect with strong ties to the GSD,” Simon said. “The GSD is a place of intellectual curiosity and engagement, transformative ideas and innovation, and design acumen and boundless creativity, all instrumental in design education, practice and my own thinking. Over my many years as a practitioner and educator, the GSD has continued to nourish my mind and heart.”