With one stroke of a pen, guided by a visionary alumnus, the College of Architecture has taken a giant step forward. With that step, Architecture became the fourth college at Tech to endow a dean's chair — a move that recognizes one of the most prestigious levels of academic leadership and propels the college upward.
The chair bears the name of one of Georgia Tech's most distinguished graduates, the renowned architect John C. Portman Jr., ARCH 1950, Honorary Ph.D. 2012.
"Atlanta is my town," Portman said. "Georgia Tech is a jewel in Atlanta's crown, and the College of Architecture played a pivotal role in shaping my life. I am honored to partner with the institution that means so much to me, while it aims to ensure generations of aspiring architects have a world-class educational foundation on which to build their dreams, contribute to the field, and improve the lives of people everywhere."
The John Portman Dean's Chair will enhance — in perpetuity — the college's ability to attract and retain the very best academic leaders in the field. It will also provide the resources to meet pressing needs within the college and take advantage of emerging opportunities. Dean Steven P. French is the first to hold the chair.
"The Portman Dean's Chair is transformative," said French. "It is absolutely indispensable to reaching our strategic goals, but it also serves as an inspirational legacy to generations of architects in the Georgia Tech community."
French, a professor of city and regional planning, served as associate dean for research within the College of Architecture from 2009 to 2013. Both he and his predecessor, former dean Alan Balfour, have been committed to connecting with alumni and enlisting their support in advancing the college.
John Portman is chairman of The Portman Companies — affiliated architecture, development, financing, and management companies — all headquartered in Atlanta. Since the founding of his firm in 1953, he has been a pioneer in architecture, introducing the very concept of the architect as developer. For more than 60 years, The Portman Companies have developed and/or designed 50 million square feet of space in countries around the world, spanning the segments of mixed-use, hospitality, office, residential, exhibition, and higher education.
Portman's impact has been felt globally, but no city has benefited more from his vision than Atlanta, whose downtown he revolutionized over five decades, beginning in the 1960s.
The 14-block Peachtree Center complex features many of his landmark projects, including the Atlanta Merchandise Mart (now AmericasMart, the world's largest single wholesale marketplace), the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, the Westin Peachtree Plaza, and the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, with its soaring 22-story atrium. From the opening of that hotel in 1967, he made architectural history and won international acclaim.
Indeed, John Portman helped shape the second half of the 20th century as an artist, an architect, a developer, and an entrepreneur. Notable projects outside his hometown of Atlanta include Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, Shanghai Center and Tomorrow Square in Shanghai, and Yintai Centre in Beijing.
He once said, "To create space that enhances the quality of life is architecture's greatest gift to the community it serves." And now his legacy will endure at Georgia Tech and continue to influence generations of architects to come.