The Joslyn Institute’s founder, President and CEO, W. Cecil Steward, FAIA, DPACSA, and dean emeritus and emeritus professor of architecture and planning at the University of Nebraska College of Architecture,.died peacefully on November 3, 2021. He was a world expert on sustainable design, planning, and development.
In 1973, at the time of his appointment as dean of the UNL College of Architecture, he was the youngest dean of architecture in the nation. He served in the role for more than 27 years, retiring in 2000. Since that time, he worked indefatigably for sustainable design, planning and development at the Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities. Steward served as President of the American Institute of Architects in 1991-93.
At UNL’s College of Architecture, Steward added a public service center for community development; transferred the interior design degree to the College of Architecture; secured departmental status for the Interior Design and Community and Regional Planning programs; and created the Hyde Programs for visiting scholars and lectures. Steward he saved the University’s Architecture Hall from a planned demolition in the 1980s and led the conversion of the architecture program into a six-year, professional status program.
He was well respected throughout the allied professions for his numerous contributions in educational outreach, the elevation of
professional standards and his passion for sustainability. His daughter Karen said felt tasked by the land grant universities he attended including Columbia to “always give back to the community…..and that he did with no reservations.”
Steward once said the accomplishments he was most proud of included implementing the requirement of continuing education for architects as part of an American Institute of Architects policy that he led the charge on as AIA president; participating in the first architectural education delegation that established China’s first legal framework for the title “architect,” and the management of education and practice of architecture; leading the creation of the Nebraska Harry F. Cunningham Gold Medal; establishing the Nebraska Center for Sustainable Construction; and, in 1996, creating a non-profit entity, the Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities, to bring sustainable development principles into the education and practice of architecture and planning.
Steward and the Joslyn Institute were the recipients of the 2013 International Dubai Award for Best Practices in Sustainable Development, an award program jointly administered by UN-Habitat and Dubai Municipality. The cities of Omaha and Lincoln nominated JISC for its work on enhancing environmental decision-making capacity in the region. In 1999 he was awarded the national Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education, jointly, by the American Institute of Architects and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. In 1997 his peers in the AIA Nebraska awarded him the Gold Medal for Architecture. He held a visiting faculty appointment at the University of Hawaii School of Architecture, and was a Senior Fellow of the national Design Futures Council.
His pathbreaking concept of the Five Domains of Sustainability and Sustainometrics©, a tool for determining metric indicators of the sustainability of any project or design—from a small industrial device to a large city’s comprehensive plan—have been utilized by planners from Medellín, Colombia, and Gaungzhou, China, to Grand Island, Nebraska, and Juneau, Alaska. The City of Lincoln’s Plan Forward 2050 comprehensive plan and Climate Action Plan are a testament to Steward’s influence in that they pay heed to the Five Domains of Sustainability and Sustainometrics in their focus on vital resources, equity and enviromental justice, and resiliency.
Steward authored, with colleague Sharon S. Baum Kuska, two books, Sustainometrics: Measuring Sustainability – Design, Planning, and Administration for Sustainable Living (2011); and the forthcoming Making Sense of Sensible Making: The Red Flag for Design, which tracks design theory since the Industrial Revolution and makes the case for a new design theory for sustainable design. He also published more than 57 essays on sustainability over a period of two years for the Lincoln Journal-Star.
His academic programs in teaching and research include architecture, interior design, community and regional planning, and sustainable community development, as well as the initiation of faculty/student exchanges and research projects in France, Ireland, Germany, China, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Canada, Hungary and Denmark.
He earned his professional Bachelor of Architecture degree from Texas A&M University in 1957 and his M.S. in Architecture from Columbia University in 1961 (Educational Facilities Program), after study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in France. In 1991 he was awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Drury College in Springfield, Missouri.
Steward practiced architecture in Texas, New York, and Nebraska. In addition, he was project director for planning and design of Nigeria’s Imo State University (1981-88), and a consultant on the advancement of the profession and architectural education to the People’s Republic of China since 1979. As designer/developer/owner, he completed, in 1994, an award-winning “green design” residential project from a former commercial structure in mid-town Lincoln, Nebraska.
In 1991 he was elected to be the 68th president of the American Institute of Architects, the first career educator to be installed. During his two years of service as president-elect and president he completed work with the White House commemorating the 200th anniversary of the building, established the first international chapters of AIA in London, and Paris, established the first task force on Cultural Diversity in the profession, and the first requirement for continuing professional development. In 1992 he initiated the first profession-wide study of architectural education which engaged all five architectural organizations, known as the Boyer Study.
A past president of the National Architectural Accrediting Board, Steward served on the boards of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, the AIA and on the charter board of the Architectural Research Centers Consortium. He also served on the board of directors of the Asia/Pacific Center for Architecture, the national Design Futures Council, and the steering committee of the United Nations Center for Human Settlements Best Practices Network and its international Dubai Award for Best Practices in Sustainable Development.
In 1992 and 1993, he participated as an invited juror in the judging of design competitions for the Seoul, Korea International Airport and the Jin Mao World Trade Center, Shanghai, China. In 2001 he served as a juror for designs for the redevelopment of the Wang Po River, Shanghai. These projects were to be the world’s largest of their type, when completed. Steward was a design juror for the Memorial to the 9.11 Victims of United Flight 93, and a professional advisor to the Architect of the Capitol for a new master plan of the grounds of the U.S. Capital during the Obama administration.
In public service he was a member of the Board of Directors of the Downtown Lincoln Association, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission, and the Lincoln Children’s Museum Board of Directors. In 2005, he started the Nebraska Center for Sustainable Construction and EcoStores, a recycled building materials store in Lincoln, Nebraska. He was a member of the Nebraska Capitol Environs Commission where he assisted in the writing of the first design guidelines for urban protection of the Nebraska Capitol building.
At the national level he served on the National Easter Seals Advisory Committee, on the national Peer Review Committee for design reviews of selected General Services Administration projects, and as a member of the Pennsylvania Avenue Design Charrette Team in Washington, D.C.
At the international level he served as a member of the National Committee on U.S./China Relations, and the UNESCO-sponsored design charrette team for the international Memorial to West African Slave Trade, Dakar, Senegal. Steward was the founder of the of the International North/North Network for Urban Sustainability. Since 1984, he served as a consultant to the Peoples Republic of China in establishing accreditation and licensing for architects. He was a continuing member of UN–Habitat’s World Urban Campaign, and recently was named chair of the WUC’s committee on elder populations.
“Cecil Steward was a legend,” said Katherine Ankerson, current dean of the UNL College of Architecture. “The College of Architecture stands on the shoulders of giants and leaders such as Cecil. We would not be the institution we are today, if not for his vision, passion and stewardship of this great college. Thanks to his generosity and kindness, thousands of dollars in scholarships over the years have been awarded to our students, always having their future foremost on his mind. I can’t express how deeply this loss will be felt not only among our college family but also the profession as he made such an indelible impact on its history and trajectory. He will be greatly missed by so many.”
Fellow board member, colleague, and co-author Sharon B. Kuska, professor of architecture, remembers his passion and what a remarkable career and life he led. “It’s hard to put into words that will do justice to what my mentor, my colleague, and my dear friend, Cecil Steward meant to me and the profession,” Kuska said. “He was a wise and trusted counselor and teacher, loyal to the architectural profession and to the academy; he shared his experience and insight, dedicated to educating and envisioning; he expressed passion and ingenuity, committed to sustainability and design. Cecil was a true idealist with a creative intellect that at times bordered on quixotic. He lived each day with purpose, and lucky for us, shared his work, his dreams, and his vision with the world.”
“Cecil was a personal friend, a most distinguished university colleague and a giant in his field,” UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green said. “His reach was extraordinary and extended from the university broadly across Nebraska, throughout our country and, indeed, the world.”
“Beyond Nebraska and the university, Cecil was also a huge and dynamic force in the profession nationally, as well as a former president of the AIA. His support and mentorship – over many years — contributed tremendously to my own career,” said Roger Schluntz, professor and dean emeritus, School of Architecture and Planning at the University of New Mexico and vice chancellor of the AIA College of Fellows.
Cecil was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Jane, and is survived by his son Craig, his daughter Karen, and his granddaughter Wesley. A memorial is being planned in early 2022.