On October 27th at the 8th Annual Berkeley Soiree at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the College of Environmental Design community honored three alumni who, through their accomplishments and commitment to social justice, affordable housing, and humanistic sustainable design, have raised the bar higher in their field.
Following a 21-year tradition of celebrating exemplary alumni, Dean Jennifer Wolch presented CED Distinguished Alumni Awards to Fred Blackwell (MCP ‘96), Dana Cuff (PhD, Architecture, ‘82) and (posthumously) to Ron Herman (BLA ‘64).
“Each of these accomplished alumni stands as an exemplary leader, embodying the vision of the college. Their extraordinary achievements have improved lives, enriched environments, and inspired new generations of environmental designers to think beyond the conventional, strive to spur positive change, and create sublime places,” said Dean Wolch.
Fred Blackwell (M.C.P. 1996) – CEO, the San Francisco Foundation
Fred Blackwell is a nationally recognized community leader and CEO of The San Francisco Foundation, one of the largest community foundations in the country. Since joining the foundation in 2014, Mr. Blackwell has led the Foundation in a renewed commitment to social justice through an equity agenda focused on racial and economic inclusion. A dedicated supporter of CED, Blackwell serves as a visiting professor and has been a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the College of Environmental Design since 2011.
Acknowledging the impact of his student experience, Blackwell said, “My education at CED provided me with skills, networks, and credentials that have been essential in every step of my career. I remain connected to the school so I can give back to the community that has provided so much for me.”
Blackwell also currently serves on the boards of the Independent Sector, Northern California Grantmakers, SPUR, the Bridgespan Group, and the community advisory council of the San Francisco Federal Reserve. He previously served on the boards of the California Redevelopment Association, Urban Habitat Program, LeaderSpring, and Leadership Excellence.
Prior to joining The San Francisco Foundation, Fred Blackwell held the post of Interim City Administrator for the City of Oakland. He was the Executive Director of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and Director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Development in San Francisco and served as the Director of the Making Connections Initiative for the Annie E. Casey Foundation in the Lower San Antonio neighborhood of Oakland. At the San Francisco Foundation, Blackwell was a Multicultural Fellow in Neighborhood and Community Development and subsequently managed a multi-year comprehensive community initiative in West Oakland.
Blackwell holds a master’s degree in city planning from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in urban studies from Morehouse College.
“Fred Blackwell is a leader in the truest sense,” said Teresa Caldeira, Professor and Chair of the Department of City & Regional Planning. “His exceptional dedication to social justice and equality in the urban realm has not only made a significant difference in underserved and economically challenged communities who benefit from the work of the San Francisco Foundation and other organizations with which he has served, but also has inspired those around him including all of us at CED who are grateful for his generous contributions as an advisor, educator, and donor.”
Dana Cuff (Ph.D. in Architecture, 1982) – Professor, UCLA Architecture & Urban Design; Founding Director, cityLAB
Dana Cuff is a globally recognized leader in urban innovation, engaging in cultural studies in architecture and the city as a teacher, scholar, practitioner, and activist. Cuff is a professor of architecture and urbanism at UCLA where she is also the founding director of cityLAB, a think tank that explores design innovations in the emerging metropolis.
Cuff has published and lectured widely about postwar Los Angeles, modern American urbanism, the architectural profession, affordable housing, and spatially embedded computing. Her publications include: Architects’ People (with W.R. Ellis; 1989); Architecture: The Story of Practice (1989) which remains an influential text about the culture of the design profession; The Provisional City (2000), a study of how large-scale residential architecture projects transformed Los Angeles over the past century; and Fast Forward Urbanism (with R. Sherman, 2011).
Her urban and architectural research span across continents to Sweden, China, Japan, and Mexico. In 2013 and 2016, Cuff received major, multi-year awards from the Mellon Foundation for the Urban Humanities Initiative, bringing design and the humanities together at UCLA.
“Professor Cuff is one of those broad thinkers — questioning the production of our cities, the practices of the architectural profession, and the forms of everyday living,” said Renee Y. Chow, Professor of Architecture and Urban Design and Chair of the Department of Architecture. “With her pronouncement to ‘act like an architect,’ she reminds us of how and why to build a civic realm. She makes us all better architects.”
Cuff received her Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, and a BA in Psychology and Design from UC Santa Cruz.
Ron Herman (B.Landscape Architecture 1964) – Posthumously Honored
Ron Herman had a major impact on both the design and evolution of private gardens in North America. During his decades-long career in landscape architecture, he created more than 400 full-scale garden designs including many of the country’s largest and most intricate residential gardens such as the 25-acre Japanese style garden for Oracle founder Lawrence Ellison
Raised in Hollywood, CA, Herman learned his craft while helping his father plan gardens for celebrities such as Phil Silvers and Steve Allen. Like his father, Herman’s clients included an array of prominent celebrities, individuals, and companies, including the professional football player Joe Montana, Neil Young, and Ellison’s company, Oracle. Herman also designed the garden for the East Wing addition by I.M. Pei to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.
After obtaining his degree in Landscape Architecture at Berkeley, Herman spent three years of study at Kyoto University where he gained an affinity for the minimalist and spiritual characteristics of Japanese landscape design. He was noted for his skillful ability to blend the disparate strands of modernism, Japanese garden design, and the “California style” of landscape design and his works are imbued with a mix of formal and informal sequences of spaces and plantings. CED Professor Emeritus of Architecture Marc Treib noted that while some of Herman’s gardens looked more “Japanese,” more important was the application of principles to his designs, without the more obvious Japanese forms.
Treib and Herman were not only colleagues, but also shared a close friendship since the 1970’s when they became neighbors in a building they co-owned. Over a 10-year period, Ron Herman taught a course on Japanese Architecture and Gardens at the College of Environmental Design, in later years co-teaching as a team with Treib, each presenting from podiums on opposite sides of the room and alternating their discourse to keep students engaged. CED colleagues valued Herman as “the best kind of practitioner” — one fully engaged with thinking as well as actual practice; strong at generating ideas that were executed with a good sense of detail.
“Ron Herman brought a unique Japanese garden-inspired approach to his landscape architecture practice, creating many intricately designed gardens for residences, museums, and corporate offices. He also gave generously of his time to students over many years,” said Elizabeth Macdonald, Professor and Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning and Professor, Department of City & Regional Planning, Urban Design. ”He will be missed by the LAEP community and the landscape architecture profession.”
Ron Herman authored numerous papers on Japanese garden design and co-authored with Treib, A Guide to the Gardens of Kyoto. A collection of illustrations, drawings, and other works by Herman currently reside in the Environmental Design Archives at CED.