Skip to main content

Planning at CU marks 75 years with alumni events, exhibit

More than 100 City and Regional Planning (CRP) alumni will return to campus Oct. 15-16, joining faculty, staff and students in celebrating the department's 75th anniversary.

The celebration, designed to connect faculty and students with alumni engaged in planning practices around the world, will feature conversations led by alumni and current and emeriti faculty. Other events include networking receptions, panels on careers in planning, and a bicycle tour of the campus.

To mark the anniversary, CRP professor Ann Forsyth and associate professor Neema Kudva have collaborated on a book, "Transforming Planning."

The program of study in planning was initially funded by the Carnegie Corporation and began in 1935. An MRP degree program was approved in 1941, but "only a few people received the degree during the war," Forsyth said. "Our best single resource was [emeritus professor] John Reps. The first real class graduated in 1947, and John was among them. He later came back to teach and is still a presence in the department over 20 years after his retirement."

Reps will give a presentation on the department's history Oct. 15.

"He actually initially suggested the event," Forsyth said. "He had visited the university archives and had copies of the original correspondence and announcements around the Carnegie money. He had a number of important images, including a photo of that first class."

Forsyth gathered most of the information from the university archives and "we trolled through the materials kept by the college and department," she said. Historic Preservation Program faculty also kept materials, "including some collected for the 50th anniversary." When the text was finalized, Kudva oversaw the book's design and production.

Kudva has organized a related exhibition in John Hartell Gallery, highlighting the history with an interactive timeline, digital displays, enlarged pages from the book, and work by current students and alumni.

"The department has quite a history," Kudva said. "From its inception, planning at Cornell was articulated as an interdisciplinary activity, not just a professional one."

She quoted a letter from Gilmore Clarke '13, who would head the new program. He envisioned a course "where instruction in city planning would be so broad, and of such great interest, that people from different areas of study in a university, no matter whether they were sociologists, economists or engineers, would come and put their heads together in seminars and discuss the problems of the city from their points of view."

The first woman to complete the program came from outside the United States, as were several other early students, Forsyth and Kudva noted.

"The first woman MRP, Sobhagya Komarakul, was from Thailand," Forsyth said. The first female U.S. citizen to graduate, Carmen Torres of Puerto Rico, is pictured on the event invitation.

The department helps cities through outreach and fieldwork, and engages with global issues through the International Studies in Planning Program, which Kudva directs.

"The other interesting thing has been seeing both continuity and evolution in ideas," Forsyth said. In the 1960s, the program "began to really engage with new perspectives and tools [including early computers], and approaches to planning that deepened the traditional focus on making cities work better for people by thinking more about social equity."

Anniversary weekend events include welcoming remarks in Statler Auditorium from President David Skorton; Architecture, Art and Planning Dean Kent Kleinman; and CRP chair Kieran Donaghy. The weekend will also feature the exhibition opening in Hartell Gallery, a reception at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Donaghy speaking about training the next generation of planners, a presentation on urban and regional studies, and alumni panels on careers and strengthening ties with the department.

Also, 10 CRP alumni will share their experiences, including Norman Krumholz, MRP '65; Paul Farmer, MRP '71, executive director of the American Planning Association; Susan Boyle, MRP '82; and former faculty member and chair Kenneth Reardon, Ph.D. '90.

An alumni dinner in Duffield Hall will honor retiring faculty Lourdes Beneria, Pierre Clavel, William Goldsmith, David Lewis and Porus Olpadwala.

For information, e-mail Sarah Subin at

Media Contact

John Carberry