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McMinn, former AAP dean and Cornell in Rome founder, dies

William G. McMinn, who served as dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning (AAP) from 1984 to ’96 and founded the Cornell in Rome program, died Aug. 21 in Asheville, North Carolina. He was 89.

As dean of AAP, McMinn was instrumental in establishing the undergraduate program in the Department of City and Regional Planning. He also strengthened all graduate programs and increased graduate support funding, including the completion of a five-year fundraising campaign for facilities, endowments and the upgrade of educational technology.

William McMinn

“Bill McMinn’s contributions to the stature of the college cannot be overstated,” said Meejin Yoon, the Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of AAP. “As a founder of the Cornell in Rome program, he enriched the lives of so many as the program has grown into a vital component of many architecture, art and planning students’ education. He was a practitioner as well as an educator, and his influence will continue to be felt beyond scholarship to the underpinnings of the culture at AAP and well beyond.”

A fellowship to the American Academy in Rome in 1982 began McMinn’s decades of professional and personal ties with the Italian city. He established an international college board of advisers to realize the Cornell in Rome program in 1986.

“Bill was firmly convinced that Rome, this most ancient and complicated of cities, is the ideal laboratory for the disciplines of architecture, art and planning,” said Jeffrey Blanchard, academic director for the Cornell in Rome program.

“While Bill’s distinguished career as an educator unfolded in a number of institutions and was marked by many achievements and awards,” Blanchard said, “I believe he always considered the creation of Cornell’s Rome program to be one of his most important and enduring accomplishments.”

Born in Abilene, Texas, McMinn received his B.A. in 1952 and his B.Arch. in 1953 from Rice University, and his M.Arch. in 1954 from the University of Texas, Austin. He began teaching in 1956 at Texas Tech University, moving on to professor and department leadership roles at Clemson University, Auburn University and Louisiana State University.

He was founding dean of the Mississippi State University School of Architecture from 1974 until joining Cornell in 1984.

He retired to North Carolina in 2004, after spending eight years as founding dean of the School of Architecture at Florida International University.

In 2006 he was awarded the Topaz Medallion, the highest award for outstanding contribution to architectural education, from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA). He also received the ACSA’s Distinguished Professor Award in 1991, and was named an AIA fellow in 1980.

McMinn is survived by his wife of 64 years, Joan, along with son, Kevin, and daughter, Tracey.

Patti Witten is a writer for the College of Architecture, Art and Planning.

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