Distinguished Alumni Award

Alumni 2014

Meric Gertler (MCP, 1979)

President, University of Toronto

Meric Gertler became the 16th president of the University of Toronto in March 2013 after a 5 years as the dean of Faculty of Arts and Science. He is known in academia as an expert in urban and economic geography, and is one of the most cited geographer in Canada with $8.4 million coming into the University of Toronto to fund his work.

Gertler came to the university after completing his PhD in Urban Planning and Regional Development from Harvard University in 1983. He received his Masters in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley in 1979 after graduating summa cum laude in 1977 with a degree in Urban-Economic Geography from McMaster University.

In his 30 year academic career, Gertler has written several books and has been author, co-author or co-editor of over 80 scholarly publications. The Oxford Handbook of Economic Geography, for which he is a co-ediotr, is widely used in the field.

Lund University in Sweden awarded Gertler an honorary doctor of philosophy in May 2012 for his work in economic geography and regional development. In an interview with the Toronto Star shortly after being named the president of the university, Gertler said that one of his goals was to help inform the debates over infrastructure, particularly public transit in the city region.

Gwendolyn Wright (M.Arch., 1974)

Professor of Architecture, Columbia University

Gwendolyn Wright, is best known as a recent co-host of the popular PBS television series, "History Detectives." Wright is currently a professor of architecture at Columbia University. She earned a B.A. in History and Art History from New York University in 1969 and later got a Master in Architecture from UC Berkeley in 1974. She was hired by Columbia in 1983, a couple of years after completing her PhD in Architecture at UC Berkeley in 1978. In 1985 Wright became the first woman to receive tenure in the prestigious Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

An award-winning Architectural Historian, Wright's work has focused on American architecture and urbanism from the late-nineteenth century to the present day. She wrote her first book, "Moralism and the Model Home: Domestic Architecture and Cultural Conflict in Chicago, 1873-1913," in 1980. Her latest book, "USA: Modern Architectures in History," was published Reaktion Press/University of Chicago in 2008. She was written several articles, reviews and essays.

In 2002, Wright was hired as a co-host for the new PBS television series, "History Detectives." The hour-long show features a team of experts who try to search for "facts, myths and conundrums that connect local folklore, family legends and interesting objects." Wright was known for thinking outside the box and suggesting alternative strategies when the team hit a roadblock in their investigations. Wright left the show in 2013.

Wright has been recognized with several award, including a Getty Fellowship from the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1992-93, A Ford Foundation Fellowship in the Humanities, 1991, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 2004-05, and several others.

Mark Owen Francis (B.A. Landscape Architecture, 1972)

Professor Emeritus, Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design, UC Davis

Influential Landscape Architect, Mark Francis, joined the Landscape Architecture Program at UC Davis in 1980.  Francis did graduate studies at the MIT School of Architecture and Planning and at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design where he earned a Master of Landscape Architecture in Urban Design in 1975. He earned a B.A. in Landscape Architecture with honors from UC Berkeley in 1972.

Two years after joining the Landscape Architecture Program at UC Davis in 1980, Francis became an associate professor with tenure. He became full professor in 1988.  He was named Chair of the program from 1994-97. In 1983, Francis founded the Center for Design Research in the Department of Environmental Design which he directed for twenty years.

Francis works at the intersections of landscape architecture, environmental psychology, geography, art, and urban design. He focuses on spatial meaning and democracy including the theory and design of urban and community landscapes using a case study approach to study parks, gardens, public spaces and urban public life.  An example of his design work is the award winning Davis Central Park and Farmer’s Market, voted the most popular farmer’s market in America by the American Farmland Trust in 2010.
Author of the landmark books "The Meaning of Gardens" (published by MIT Press in 1990) and “Public Space” (published by Cambridge University Press in 1992), Francis is a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture.  He is the author of six books and over 70 articles translated into a dozen languages.  His most recent book, "Village Homes: A Community by Design," was published by Island Press in 2003.