Rodney Hill, a professor of architecture who has emphasized the importance of creativity, exploration and self discovery to his students since joining Texas A&M’s faculty 43 years ago, has been elevated to the American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows, one of the highest honors the AIA bestows on its members.
Hill will be invested during a ceremony in May at the 2012 AIA convention in Washington, D.C.
He’s an award-winning architect, an expert in environmental psychology and a futurist whose lessons prompt students to connect the dots and draw their own conclusions from emerging global conditions, innovations and imagined possibilities.
Throughout his career, Hill has garnered a universe of awards from state and national organizations as well as nearly every major teaching honor awarded by Texas A&M. His recent honors include a designation as one of the “25 Most Admired Educators” by the Design Futures Council (2012), the Texas A&M Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Award (2010), the Texas Society of Architects Award for Outstanding Educational Contributions in Honor of Edward J. Romieniec (2000), Texas A&M’s Eppright Professorship in Undergraduate Teaching Excellence (2005) and the David Tanner Champion of Creativity Award (2006) from the American Creativity Association.
“This is a man who has magic in him,” said Walter Wendler ’72, former dean of the Texas A&M College of Architecture and director of the School of Architecture at Southern Illinois University. “I have met many fine teachers, but not a single one who has the power to impact people’s lives as Rodney Culver Hill does.”
Jorge Vanegas, dean of the College of Architecture echoed the sentiment.
“He emerges as one of the most remarkable educators I have met in my life,” said Jorge Vanegas, dean of the College of Architecture. “He combines boundless passion, energy and selfless dedication to his students with a brilliant intellect, an infectious charm and a genuine sense of care.”
Four decades of former students count Hill as one of their best teachers, including Los Angeles-based designer David Applebaum ’80, also known as “Architect to the Stars” for his long list of celebrity clients.
“It has been more than 34 years since I sat in Rodney Hill’s studio, but there has never been a day since that I do not use one of the lessons, exercises or examples he introduced to me,” he said.
“Rodney,” said Applebaum, “did not just teach artful design, theory, programming and practice. He taught us to think for ourselves, find our voice and think creatively. He confidently steered me and countless thousands of students and former students toward self-realization.”
Hill and Vanegas lead The Design Process, one of the university’s most sought-after classes, in which students develop patentable inventions that routinely place well in entrepreneur competitions.
“We are trying to get them to be knowledge thinkers,” Hill said. “There are no Scantrons in the class. All of it is creating knowledge.”
He’s also an accomplished artist who designed Texas A&M University at Qatar’s ceremonial mace, the 13-foot tall, 900-pound “Obelisk of Knowledge,” a sculpture he created at the request of the campus’ main benefactors, His Highness Sheikh Hamad Khalifa Al-Thani and Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, a bronze Muster sculpture in the Academic Plaza, an 8-foot-tall wood and bronze obelisk in the Sterling C. Evans Library and many others.
A feature article and video, “Under the Spell of Rodney Hill,” published in a recent issue of the Texas A&M Foundation’s Spirit magazine, highlights the architecture professor’s outstanding teaching and mentoring skills that have earned him the respect and admiration of generations of Texas A&M students.
Hill is among the 105 newest members of the College of Fellows, who are selected for making significant contributions to architecture and society. Founded in 1952, the college is composed of members elected by their AIA peers. Fewer than two percent of all registered architects have received the honor.