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Honors Archive: Robert H. Dietz FAIA 1/12/1912 - 5/8/2006

Reference: Memorial notice, The Seattle Times 5/15/06

Born January 12th, 1912 in Crofton, Nebraska, Robert Dietz moved to Seattle with his family at the age of 7, and graduated from O'Dea High in 1929.

After his graduation from the University of Washington (BArch 1941), he received a scholarship to attend MIT (MArch 1944). He went on to hold a position in the office of Scientific Research and Development at Princeton University, representing this division in bomb analysis during the war years.

Establishing his architectural practice in Seattle, he took honors in AIA Seattle's first Honor Awards program, in 1950. He worked with J. Lister Holmes 1947-52, and in 1952 he and Lawrence Waldron AIA formed the partnership of Waldron and Dietz.

Beginning in 1947 he taught in the University of Washington Department of Architecture, in 1958 achieving the rank of Professor. In 1962 he succeeded Arthur Herrman as Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Robert Dietz served on the design committee for the Seattle Worlds Fair, and on the board and as President of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

His elevation to the AIA College of Fellows in 1965 recognized his distinguished contributions to the profession.

He retired in 1980 and moved to Arizona, where he died May 8, 2006.

His colleague Norman J. Johnston FAIA offers these recollections:
"Much of my early progress on the UW academic ladder was due to Bob Dietz's initiative. My arrival on the campus was, I'm sure, due principally to his approval along with that of others. His career at the time (1960) was in effect that of a dean if not in title. He subsequently became Dean and I was appointed Assistant Dean and then Associate Dean, a role that I continued to fill, serving a number of deans who followed him.

"Academically, the College saw major expansions under his leadership with the founding of three new departments (Urban Planning, Landscape Architecture and Building Construction) and the transformation of the professional degree in Architecture from an undergraduate to a graduate level.

"But his tenure was clouded by an increasingly unsettled campus in those troubled years of the late 60s, early 70s. He left the deanship ca. 1972, followed shortly by what appeared to be a very happy remarriage following the death of his first wife, and his retirement in 1980. We in the College saw little of him thereafter, though reports all testified to his living the good life. To the continuation of those circumstances I heartily subscribe."

His colleagues remember Bob Dietz:
•William P. Gerberding: "I came in 1979 as UW President, after Bob Dietz's time there, but I knew him and enjoyed his company. He was an excellent golfer and belonged to Sahalee, as did I, and I'd see him around from time to time.
"More importantly, he designed one of the few alterations / extensions of the UW President's home at 808 36th Avenue East, originally designed in the early l900s by Bebb and Mendel for a timber baron. Bob's contribution was a 'modern' sun room attached to the southeast corner of this elegant old house and, as a sixteen-year occupant, I can attest that it worked beautifully . . . whatever some of your disputatious colleagues may have said about it."
•Philip L. Jacobson FAIA: "Bob Dietz had the gregarious, positive, and optimistic character that it took to mobilize the College, in those exciting years. As the College's second head (succeeding Arthur Hermann), he garnered excellent support from UW internal sources to nurture the growth of the College and all its disciplines.
"He encouraged me to come to campus and teach, and I stayed with that work for 40 years - which changed and enriched my professional life in a very positive way."
Mark L. Nelson AIA: "Bob Dietz was Dean at the U of W Architecture School when I started there in 1967. He was always positive and always acknowledged me and my fellow students wherever we might be. He served as a role model, mentor and friend of students during my 5 years at the Universty. He was a leader in tumultuous times in the late sixties, early seventies, when campus unrest and new ways of thinking and being were being explored by thousands of students. He stuck in there with us and turned mayhem into a learning experience, one that has stayed with me all these years. I will always remember him for his inspiration to me as a student, a budding young architect and human being. "
•Jeffrey K. Ochsner FAIA:
"Dietz was an early advocate for research in architecture. From his wartime experiences, he became convinced of the influence of new technologies on design as well as the importance of teamwork in achieving large projects. Dietz was the first head of the Graduate Program in Architecture (MArch) beginning in 1960."

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