Distinguished alumnus, renowned architect, WWII hero Peña endows Architecture Scholars Program

William Peña

William Merriweather Peña was recently presented with one of Belgium’s highest honors for his World War II service.

A new scholarship program established with a significant endowment by William Merriweather Peña ’42, a former Texas A&M architecture student, World War II hero, and renowned architect, will help generations of aspiring Aggie architects receive an education.

All Department of Architecture students — graduate, undergraduate and even incoming students — studying to become registered architects will soon be eligible to apply for funds through the need- and merit-based William Merriweather Peña Scholars Program.

"Scholarship holders will not only receive support for their academic studies through the program, but they will be custodians of the legacy and selfless service of a great man," said Jorge Vanegas, dean of the College of Architecture.

These scholarships promise to strengthen the department’s professional degree programs by encouraging undergraduate scholars to continue graduate studies at Texas A&M, said Valerian Miranda, director of the College of Architecture’s CRS Center for Leadership and Management in the Design and Construction Industry. Miranda worked closely with Peña to create the program.

Also eligible for the scholarships are students in the Master of Architecture Career Change Program, who, coming to architecture from alternative disciplines, bring with them a unique perspective advantageous to all students, said Julie Rogers, a senior lecturer in the department

Both Rogers and Miranda are working closely with Peña to shape the scholars program and maximize its potential.

Peña’s renown as a groundbreaking architect and World War II soldier resulted in numerous awards and honors, including recognition as a Distinguished Alumnus of Texas A&M, membership in the prestigious American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows and heroism awards from the United States, France and Belgium.

After recovering from losing his leg to a German landmine, Pena joined the design firm Caudill, Rowlett and Scott and was promoted to firm partner in 1949. He helped launch the firm into national prominence as a pioneer in architectural programming, a process that provides the general direction a building’s design should take after a client’s goals and needs are determined.

In 1969, Peña and two CRS colleagues, William Caudill and John Focke, wrote what soon became a popular textbook on programming, “Problem Seeking,” which is now in its fifth edition.

With the establishment of the scholars program, Peña continues his philanthropic support of the Texas A&M College of Architecture, which also includes endowment of the William M. Peña Endowed Professorship in Information Management.

Over the years, Peña and his fellow CRS colleagues, many of them former Texas A&M students or professors, have been honored by endowments advancing architectural education, including:

  • The Rowlett Lecture Series, a showcase for the world’s most prestigious design firms named to honor John Miles Rowlett, a CRS founder and former architecture professor;
  • The Thomas A. Bullock Endowed Chair in Leadership & Innovation, which honors Bullock, a CRS partner and Outstanding Alumnus of the College of Architecture;
  • The William Wayne Caudill Student Research Fellowship, which honors Caudill, a CRS founder and former architecture professor;
  • The Wallie E. Scott Jr. Endowed Professorship in Architectural Practice and Management. which honors Scott, a CRS partner and an Outstanding Alumnus.
posted December 13, 2016