Remembering President Malecha

Beloved President of NewSchool of Architecture & Design, Marvin Malecha, Dies

5/21/20 Update

A virtual funeral service will be held for Marvin J. Malecha on Saturday, May 23, 2020 at 10:00 AM PDT. All are welcome to attend. You can join the service live via this link: https://vimeo.com/419765289/d35a185596.

San Diego, CA (May 7, 2020) — NewSchool of Architecture & Design (NewSchool) is deeply saddened to announce that beloved President and Chief Academic Officer, Marvin J. Malecha, FAIA, DPACSA, passed away on May 4, 2020, following a battle with his health. He was 70 years old. President Malecha is survived by his dear wife, Cindy, his two children, Peter and Michelle, and his granddaughter, Chloe.

“NewSchool and the design community at large has lost a shining star. Marvin’s belief that design can, and should, change the world for better will forever inspire us to forge deeper connections between design and the human experience,” said Yen Ha, architect and founding principal of Front Studio, New York, as well as a former chair and an active member of the Board of Directors for NewSchool.

A giant in architecture, Malecha served as NewSchool President and Chief Academic Officer from January 2016 to May 2020. Before assuming this position, Malecha served as a member of the NewSchool Board of Directors from 2010-2017. Malecha infused the NewSchool culture with his passion for teaching design inquiry, where he inspired students and colleagues alike with his notion, “It’s a golden moment when you begin to see things that don’t yet exist.” His presence at NewSchool was magnetic. Malecha will be remembered for encouraging students to follow their dreams, his captivating, humorous stories, his charismatic yet approachable leadership sensitivity, his affinity for sketching, and his keen sense of style and taste.

“Marvin is leaving a profound, indelible mark not only in the identity of NewSchool but in all of us who have had the honor of working with him, with his enlightening, gentle and elegant spirit,” remembers Elena Pacenti, Ph.D., Dean, School of Design at NewSchool. Pacenti points out: “As a strong advocate of design, Marvin has given us the strength and the motivation to pursue the creation of innovative and interdisciplinary curricula and projects, and transferred to faculty and students that enthusiasm and pride of being designers, and the confidence that as designers we can contribute to the creation of a better world.”

Another of Malecha’s colleagues and friends, Leonard Zegarski, NewSchool’s Head of Architecture Programs, explains: “Marvin brought a very special sensitivity to design thinking, one that was focused on the human experience. His book, Being Creative: Being a Creative, represents his extremely personalized account of becoming “human-centered by design,” his architectural design mantra, and a belief he carried throughout his career as an architect and educator.”

Malecha recognized and celebrated the importance of architecture and design, insisting: “As architects and designers, we have such a special way of seeing the world. What we do is valuable to the rest of the world—we need to be aware of that as an architecture profession. When I was AIA National president, I saw this passion for the future of our culture, cities, and environment. We should promote that and be proud of that. The people who enter these professions want to make the world better and enhance people’s lives. It isn’t really architecture until people live and work in it. It’s not really architecture until those lives are improved somehow. That’s my fundamental commitment to what I’m doing.”

Malecha spent the past four and a half decades in higher education. Prior to his presidency at NewSchool, he served as the Dean of the College of Design at North Carolina State University from 1994-2015. Before that, he was Dean of the College of Environmental Design at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, for more than a decade. “I have been fortunate to be positioned as a leader during an incredibly vital period in history. Through these many experiences I have come to consider design thought as the essential foundation of the design disciplines and the essential ingredient of innovation. It is design inquiry that places the design professional in a position that is crucial to the future of our culture,” said Malecha in an interview in 2016.

A graduate of the University of Minnesota and Harvard University and a practicing architect and professor, Malecha also held the roles of Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and a Distinguished Professor of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) during his tenure with NewSchool.  Malecha served in many other national positions, including AIA National President in 2009, and President of the ACSA in 1989-1990. In 2012 and 2013, he served as the Chancellor of the College of Distinguished Professors of the ACSA. His work received national recognition, most notably the AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for excellence in architectural education and the AIA North Carolina F. Carter Williams Gold Medal for Architecture. In July of 2015, Dean Malecha was conferred with the honorific title of Professor Honoris Causa by Ion Mincu University in Bucharest, Romania. Marvin Malecha is the only American architectural educator to be designated as an honorary member of the European Association of Architectural Educators.

Malecha’s legacy will shine eternally through the many treasures he left behind. In addition to Being Creative: Being a Creative, he authored many other books covering the topics of architecture, design inquiry, and teaching pedagogies. Malecha’s 2018 lecture, Believing in the Teaching of Design, explores his newest book, To Profess, “Proclaiming with passion, affirming a life of reflection.” The lecture explores Malecha’s philosophy of “thinking, doing, reflecting, and teaching, derived from a lifetime of experiences.” Malecha also produced an array of incredible sketches over the years, some of which are included in his published books. And, some of Malecha’s product, jewelry, and furniture designs can be accessed here. This video was created when Malecha assumed the role of President and Chief Academic Office in 2016, and his bio is available here on the NewSchool website.

NewSchool would like to extend sincere gratitude for the outpouring of support from the design and higher education communities that Marvin touched, both near and far. NewSchool’s deepest sympathies are with the Malecha family at this very difficult time.

Please visit Marvin Malecha’s Tribute page and share your memories here.

If you would like to share your condolences with the family, greeting cards and flowers are welcomed and can be sent to:

The Malecha Family
1262 Kettner Blvd.
Unit 506
San Diego, CA 92101

You can also share your thoughts and well-wishes below.

Previous Update: 5/5/20

For media inquiries, please contact Jessica Nielsen at (619) 684-8847 or jnielsen@newschoolarch.edu.

Marvin Self Sketch at Athens Acropolis From Being Creative Book

Self-Sketch at the Athens Acropolis from Being Creative: Being a Creative | Marvin Malecha

Marvin's Golden Moment Quote

Marvin Malecha

Forbidden City, Beijing, China | Marvin Malecha

Forbidden City, Beijing, China | Marvin Malecha

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre | Marvin Malecha
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre | Marvin Malecha

Marvin Malecha

17 Comments
  • Michele Christopher
    Posted 4 weeks ago Reply

    I am so thankful & grateful for President Malecha’s inspiration and leadership. Rest in peace…

  • Amanda (Lawrence) McGimpsey
    Posted 4 weeks ago Reply

    My deepest condolences to his family and the NewSchool community.

  • michael j stepner
    Posted 4 weeks ago Reply

    a lasting legacy:
    Human centered by design

  • Lance Jay Brown, FAIA.DPACSA
    Posted 4 weeks ago Reply

    I am deeply saddened by Marvin’s passing. I held him in highest regard, valued his enormous contributions, and was privileged to spend time with him. My most sincere condolences to his family. Sent with love, Lance

  • Tom Fisher
    Posted 4 weeks ago Reply

    Marvin, an alumnus of our program in Minnesota, was an inspiring thinker, educator, designer, writer, and colleague. I treasure the books of his that he gave me over the years and the insights they hold, which will be part of his permanent legacy. His ability to hold the attention of everyone in a room with his presence and his passion was remarkable and we are all better for having known him. My condolences to Cindy and his family.

  • Margit E. Whitlock AIA
    Posted 4 weeks ago Reply

    To NSAD and the whole architectural community world wide….
    A master and a magician of his art and thoughts an academic and humanitarian – you will be missed Mr. Marvin M and those classic glasses! MEW

  • Kevin deFreitas
    Posted 4 weeks ago Reply

    Marvin’s approach to life was optimistic, hopeful, and filled with curiosity-it is good to remember him, his love of design, gentle spirit and his investment in others as these are all powerful antidotes against the uncertainty of these most challenging days and just a wonderful way to be and live. My condolences to Cindy, Michelle, Peter and Chloe.

  • Benjamin Meza, AIA
    Posted 4 weeks ago Reply

    Marvin was the Dean at Cal Poly Pomona when I studied there over 35 years ago. I have always believed the best teachers and mentors inspire a sense of awe in students. He was one of those. I will never forget his lectures, crits, incredible hand sketches and above all his kindness and optimism. I am very sad for his passing. My condolences to his family and to the New School of Architecture.

  • Alexander Tzonis
    Posted 4 weeks ago Reply

    Very sad news, Marvin no more with us during these hard times we need him most.
    He was a top student of mine back in the early 1970s at GSD. The years that followed we continued meeting having stimulating discussions about architectural education, the state of the profession, the work that has to be done to overcome the mounting crisis of our environment. During his life as an educator-administrator he contributed enormously promoting a humanist moral and rational design encouraging research and experimentation, during a period of chaos, uncertainty, and blind bulimic building. He supported and inspired our work on the key role of regions in the era of glorious globalisation and we are grateful. We miss him but his ideas and ideals rest with all of us working for rebuilding a better world to come. Alex Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre

  • Kevin Nivinskus
    Posted 3 weeks ago Reply

    As a graduate of Cal Poly while Marvin was the Dean, he conveyed care and sensitivity and fostered a place to thrive. He will certainly be missed. My condolences to his family and the academic community.

  • Leigh Ann Pfeiffer, AIA, ILFI LFA, NCARB
    Posted 3 weeks ago Reply

    our most deeply conveyed condolences and sincere wishes to his family and to the extended families educational and personal of all he impacted

  • Todd Schechinger
    Posted 3 weeks ago Reply

    Marvin was the Dean at the N.C. State College of Design during my graduate studies in Landscape Architecture. I was very excited to have a familiar alum here in San Diego and I always enjoyed our conversations about studio life at the various industry events. I wish I had a chance to speak with him more but I’m proud to carry the torch of designers that were positively influenced by him.

  • Joniene
    Posted 2 weeks ago Reply

    Love and warmth to the family. Thank you to God for having a wonderful human being grace us with his existence.

    Blessings to all.

  • Mark Alan Hewitt, FAIA
    Posted 2 weeks ago Reply

    Marvin was one of the most inspiring leaders our profession has seen in many years–a man of warmth, charm and integrity. His vision was rooted in a belief in the power of design to better the lives or ordinary people. Never one to rest on past achievements, he constantly challenged himself and his students to investigate new trends and ideas, not just in architecture but in allied fields such as sociology, cognitive science, and economics. His loss will be felt throughout the design professions.

  • Charles O. Heller
    Posted 2 weeks ago Reply

    Marvin was not only a professional colleague–through our service to NewSchool of Architecture and Design–but, more importantly, he was a good friend. The last time I saw him, confined to a wheelchair in the hospital, I kissed his forehead and said, “See you soon.” Perhaps I will…

  • Shari G. Grant, AIA, D. Arch
    Posted 2 weeks ago Reply

    The alumni of NewSchool are grateful to Marvin for his shining example and excellent leadership. We appreciate all that Marvin did for the school and for his continuing support of alumni. I feel a deep sense of loss and extend my sincere condolences to his family.

  • Thomas M. Anglewicz, FAIA
    Posted 2 weeks ago Reply

    It has been my great privilege to serve on the NSAD board for a number of years. Initially Marvin joined us as a board member at the request of Laureate Education. Of course I had known him by reputation through our mutual involvement with the AIA, but I really got to know him personally as we served together. I was delighted when he agreed to assume the role of NSAD president, and our working relationship became even more significant. He was a charismatic and visionary leader for the school. He really cared about students, the future of design education, and the relationship between academia and the profession. When we had our last face-to-face board meeting in February, several of us went to visit Marvin in the hospital. He was waiting for a new heart, and we were all joyful when a donor materialized. I was truly saddened when I later learned that he had left us. Architectural education and the profession have lost a great man and a wonderful human being; he is missed.

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