Outstanding College of Architecture Alumnus and decorated World War II veteran William Peña ’42 ARCH received France’s highest honor, the medal of Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, during a 2013 Veterans Day ceremony held at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Peña was part of a group of fellow WWII veterans to receive the medal from Surijo Seam, consulate general of France, at the Nov. 11 event hosted by the Houston Astros and the Daughters of the American Revolution. Since its creation by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the Legion of Honour Chevalier (Knight) medal has remained the highest, most prestigious decoration in France.
Peña landed in Normandy, France on Sept. 6, 1944 with the U.S. Army’s 109th Infantry and was among the first to enter liberated Colmar. He was later wounded in Germany. His other WWII honors include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and the French Certificate Croix de Guerre.
After the war, in 1948 Peña joined the architecture firm of Caudill Rowlett and Scott, becoming its fourth partner in 1949. At the firm, he pioneered architectural programming techniques while programming over 400 projects. After 20 years of practice, in 1969 he wrote the first edition of “Problem Seeking,” which, now in its fifth edition, remains a popular architectural programming textbook.
He has since conducted workshops and lectures at over 100 professional, corporate and academic sessions.
In 2000, he became the first architect to receive the Thomas Jefferson Award given annually by the AIA Houston Chapter. In 2009, the AIA Houston Chapter honored him again with the presentation in his name of a chair, designed by architect Finn Juhl, to the AIA Houston Design Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
An endowed professorship honoring Peña was created in 1990 by the CRS Center for Leadership and Management in the Design and Construction Industry. The professorship is awarded to an individual who has demonstrated a capacity to teach and conduct scholarly research in the area of information management.