'The Things They've Done'
When Professor of Architecture William Cannady talks about his former students, it sounds like he’s talking about his own children. He recounts memories of them as “kids” while at Rice and tells stories of their school projects. But most of all, he speaks of their accomplishments.
Cannady’s new book, “The Things They’ve Done,” is in that same vein. It offers a brief history of the Rice School of Architecture (RSA) from 1912 to 2007 and profiles the heralded careers of 68 alumni who attended Rice between 1964 and 1998.
Cannady began by making a list of the many students he had taught at Rice since early 1964. Senior faculty added more names to the list, and recommendations from alumni yielded others.
“There were many students who stood out as undergraduate and graduate students whom we knew had excelled in the professional realm,” Cannady said. “There are other alumni who should have been included, but either we didn’t have their contact information or they chose not to respond.”
The key to the selection process was based on identifying a diversity of occupations and locations around the world. The profiled alumni studied under seven administrations of the school starting in 1964, when Cannady started teaching at RSA, and pursued about 25 different career paths. They represent approximately 5 percent of RSA’s graduates.
“You can see that what you taught them has affected them and, in many cases, shaped their careers.” — William Cannady
Cannady asked each alum to write a short narrative on something memorable about their time at Rice. The narratives express a connection to the campus, classmates, faculty and activities at Rice and, according to Cannady, are the most interesting part of the book.
“Themes started to develop among students who were in school during the same period of time,” Cannady said. “You can see that what you taught them has affected them and, in many cases, shaped their careers. That wasn’t a surprise to me but was a reassurance that the time faculty spend conceiving, developing and delivering curriculum matters in the long run.”
For example, William Caudill, director of RSA from 1961 to 1969, had a pragmatic and team approach to design. Under his leadership, faculty members devised studio projects that explored planning and real estate development and exposed students to engineers, photographers and artists. Alumni in the “Caudill era” include three real estate developers, a commercial photographer, an urban designer and two public officials, in addition to practicing architects and designers.
Jack Mitchell, dean from 1978 to 1989, and his faculty affected the paths of many RSA alumni who chose to go into academia and hold faculty positions at architecture schools around the world. The 1997 Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture annual meeting of 105 schools included RSA alumni holding leadership positions on 11 different campuses.
“This book demonstrates the many careers that a Rice student can develop through the study of architecture,” Cannady said. “The traditional and not-so-traditional career paths.”
Along with architects and designers, RSA has turned out artists, photographers, teachers, deans, government officials, real estate developers, corporate executives, spacecraft designers, urban designers, authors and even an actor/producer.