Forty-year career made Pugh a legendary urban planning leader

To contribute to the David Pugh Urban Planning Scholarship email or call Larry Zuber at 979.845.0939.


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Professor Emeritus David Woodcock remembers Pugh.

David L. Pugh, who headed of the former Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the Texas A&M College of Architecture and helped shape dozens of Texas cities and thousands of minds throughout his four-decade teaching career, passed away Dec. 26, 2017 at 75.

A professor emeritus in the college’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Pugh had a special interest in utopian cities and a scholarly focus on land use law and historic preservation. Throughout his decades-spanning teaching career, he made extraordinary contributions to urban planning practice and education and headed numerous initiatives that raised the profile of planners and planning in Texas.

After joining the Texas A&M faculty in 1976, Pugh led classes in plan making, planning law and implementation, housing, historic resources planning and other related topics. A student favorite, he earned an Outstanding Teaching Award from the Texas A&M Association of Former Students in 1999.

“Known as ‘Pugh’” by his students, David served as longtime coordinator of the Master of Urban Planning program, educating a vast number of practicing planners and planning educators in Texas, many of them now leaders in their field, said Shannon Van Zandt, interim head for the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning. “He was the single biggest influence on my preparation as a planner,” she said. “I will miss him very much.”

While serving as department head from 1981-1985, Pugh introduced planning concepts to more than 100 Texas municipalities lacking staff planning professionals through a workshop that taught policymakers, municipal staff employees and city residents the basics of city planning, zoning, subdivision regulation and capital improvement ideas.

“He was the ideal academic for the times, bringing broad academic preparation, real-world experience, intellectual curiosity, and a genuine passion for teaching combined with a dedication to outreach,” said David Woodcock, director emeritus of the Center for Heritage Conservation at Texas A&M.

Passionate about safeguarding history, Pugh also played a critical role in creating of the university’s Graduate Certificate in Historic Preservation, which is offered through the CHC. 

In 1993, Pugh established Texas Target Cities, an outreach initiative in which graduate planning students aid municipalities that lack planning resources. The students help communities create a comprehensive urban plan — a document that details a community’s vision for its future — for land use, transportation and projected populations. He served as the program’s director through 2001. Now known as Texas Target Communities, more than 40 plans have been created in student-community collaborations since the program’s inception.

An active member of the Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association, Pugh served 1987-89 as the organization’s president and also held several other APA leadership positions.

He was part of the 1998 inaugural class of the American Institute of Certified Planners’ College of Fellows and he served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning from 1983-1991.

In 2015, for extraordinary contributions to urban planning practice and education spanning decades, Pugh received a Planning Legends Award from the Texas APA.

Born in 1942 in Wayne, Michigan, Pugh later earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts (1966) and a Master’s in Regional and City Planning (1970) from the University of Oklahoma, and a law degree (1975) from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.

He met and married his wife Susan at the University of Oklahoma and worked as an urban planner in Oklahoma, North Carolina, Missouri, Kansas and Texas before starting his teaching career.

Pugh retired from Texas A&M in 2004, but continued to teach an occasional class in land use law. In addition to teaching, Pugh spent his retirement designing and producing jewelry, which he sold in downtown Bryan shops and at events.

He is survived by his wife; son Justin Pugh and his wife Laura; sister Norma Pugh Peterson; and grandchildren Kennedy and Nathaniel Pugh.

The David Pugh Urban Planning Scholarship has been established in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning. Former students and others interesting in contributing to the fund should contact Larry Zuber at 979-845-0939 or at

Sarah Wilson

posted January 4, 2018