Dean Emeritus Marvin J. Malecha, FAIA, DPACSA, Dies at 70

Marvin Malecha

Marvin Malecha (1949-2020)

The College of Design is saddened by the loss of Marvin Malecha, who served as dean from 1994-2015. After a long wait for a new heart, and a successful transplant, he passed away on May 4, 2020. In his 21 years at the college, he shaped not only the campus surrounding him, but also the way students approached the concept of design.

“His biggest impact was a physical impact. He managed and cultivated the environment around him which was the campus” said Chandra Cox, former head of the Department of Art and Design. “He held workshops with James Hunt during the planning stages of the library and influenced its contemporary design. Even if he was not the designated architect, his impact was still present through other people.”

Malecha truly transformed the college, creating a Ph.D. in design program in 2000, a Master of Art and Design in 2002, and an undergraduate major in design studies in 2010. He also shaped the surrounding campus, serving as an advisor on the Hunt Library project and designing the chancellor’s residence, known as The Point.

“This is truly a momentous loss” said Dean Mark Hoversten. “Marvin truly embodied what it meant to be a designer. His commitment to creative thinking and the cultural and aesthetic value of design have permeated this college, and shaped the values of the students who walk these halls.”

His experience extended past the classroom and into the profession. He taught students a course on design thinking which influenced a generation of designers. His entire career has been a balance between education and practice. He served as the national president of the American Institute of Architects. He shaped NC State as well, redesigning the chancellor’s ceremonial lavalier and the university mace.

“Marvin went about forming a community of intellectual integrity, which extended and refined the legacy of the original School of Design over a 20-year process” said Haig Khachatoorian, professor emeritus of industrial design. “He helped change the name to college to stand on equal footing with the university’s other units, and stretched the muscles of an institution that began in 1948 and has grown into what it is today.”

Before he considered becoming an architect, he studied physics at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, Minnesota. But his interest in architecture came from a few different sources, including his father, who had always wanted to be an architect, and a nun at the nearby sister college. This nun loved architectural history and, while comparing the study of music with the study of architecture, introduced Malecha to the work of Ralph Rapson. Malecha’s enthusiasm was piqued, and he began to look into studying architecture at the University of Minnesota. It was fate, as the head of the program at the time was none other than Ralph Rapson. This influenced his perception that architects, through their work, were representing society for all time. He continued his education by completing his Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Minnesota and a Master of Architecture at Harvard University.

Once becoming an architect, he gained experience at Hugh Stubbins and Associates in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and continued work on his own and in association with offices in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and the Raleigh-Durham area. Then, he served as Dean for the College of Environmental Design at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona from 1982-1994 before becoming Dean of the College of Design at NC State University from 1994-2015. From there, he served as the President and Chief Academic Officer at NewSchool of Architecture & Design in San Diego until his death.

Malecha also transformed the way that the college connected with alumni, encouraging them to join forces with the college and lay the foundation for a culture of giving that helped grow the capital campaign, adjunct faculty positions, scholarships for students and alumni mentoring programs. “These were areas of high need, and Marvin invested the time and energy required to make these programs successful” added Charles A. Flink, a member of the Leaders Council and president of Greenways, Inc.

Malecha was also a philanthropist, establishing an endowment with his wife called The Marvin and Cindy Malecha Dream Scholarship Fund, which assists students to attend NC State’s Design Camp and therefore be exposed to design at a younger age. It provides at least two need-based scholarships per year. To date, nine students have received the scholarship. If you would like to contribute to Malecha’s legacy at the college, please consider a donation to the Dream Scholarship Fund.

If you would like to add remembrances of Marvin, please feel free to read his obituary and share them here: https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/san-diego-ca/marvin-malecha-9171266.

Remembering Marvin Malecha 2020

Awards and Honors:

  • Rotch Traveling Scholar, 1980
  • Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), 1992
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA)/California Council, Excellence in Education Award, 1994
  • Honorary Member of the European Association for Architectural Education, 1998
  • Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award, University of Minnesota, College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, 1999
  • Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Distinguished Professor, 2002
  • National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) Prize for Creative Integration of Practice and Education, 2002
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA)/Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Topaz Laureate, 2003
  • James Hecker Distinguished Leadership Award for Architectural Research, 2007
  • William R. and June Dale Prize for Excellence in Urban Planning, 2008
  • NC State University, Jackson Rigney International Service Award, 2006
  • Design Intelligence Magazine, 30 Most Influential Architectural Educators (#2), 2005
  • Design Intelligence Magazine, Architectural Educators of the Year, 2006
  • American Institute of Architects, President, 2008-2009
  • NC State College of Design, Designlife Award, 2017
  • American Institute of Architects North Carolina Chapter (AIA NC), F. Carter Williams Gold Medal, 2011
  • Appointed Dean Emeritus, UNC System Board of Governors, 2020


Malecha was also a published author, and his most recent book, Being Creative: Being a Creative (Kendall Hunt Publishing, 2015), published in June 2015. In addition, his authorship includes The Learning Organization and the Evolution of Practice Academy Concepts; Reconfiguration: In the Study and Practice of Design and Architecture; Foundations; The Fabric of Architecture: Images of People and Architecture; The Total Energy House; Learning About Architecture; Essays on Architecture; The Design Studio; The Study of Design, Form and Performance; Angels in the Architecture; Design in Life; The Nests of Pegasus; and an article, “Architectural Education,” published in EKISTICS. In 2006 he was invited to author a major article for the 30th Anniversary Publication of the European Association for Architectural Education on the subject of Professional Education. He co-authored, with Robert Greenstreet, The Junior Faculty Handbook on Tenure and Promotion and the New Administrators Handbook.

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8 responses to “Dean Emeritus Marvin J. Malecha, FAIA, DPACSA, Dies at 70”

  1. Wesley Hare says:

    I some of my best moments I had with Dean Malecha, were when I was a graduate teaching assistant for the design thinking course for freshman. Many of you know Marvin was a great speaker and it was a passion of his to connect with the young minds, share stories, and provoke new thoughts in his listeners. Every few weeks he would come to our classroom, which was a massive auditorium, full of all the first year design students and us TAs. We all took pleasure in these special moments this course. Marvin’s voice was always calming, confident, and would transport you to different worlds and new places in your mind. His famous ‘Ingenuity of Walt Disney’ was among a favorite. He always reminded us to tinkerer. These moment were some of the my most cherished during my time NC State. He certainly will live on in how encouraged us to move about the world.

  2. James Anderson says:

    During my tenure as Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies at NC State (1992-2003),
    Marvin was one of only four senior administrators that I trusted, admired, and used as a confidant. He maintained a high standard of excellence while he pushed the envelope and waded into uncharted waters. He introduced me to the pedagogy that underscored universal design and its positive impact on educational equity. He was a strong supporter of the Hewlett Fellows Initiative that encouraged faculty to incorporate inquiry guided learning in their curriculum. Marvin was witty, creative, courageous, and student-centered. My wife and I loved to visit and dine with Marvin and his wife. Finally, Marvin was a champion of diversity and he lived out what he believed in. During his tenure at NC State he was a cornerstone of the evolutionary excellence of the College of Design. I will miss him dearly. He was my guy. Love you man.

  3. Jim Martin says:

    So sorry to hear of this loss. I treasure the time I had working with Marvin. Working together I realized that as a structural chemist, I too am an architect, just at the atomic and molecular level. He inspired me to incorporate his design thinking into my teaching of chemistry. He will be sorely missed.

  4. Haig Khachatoorian says:

    Marvin fought so hard to live, for he had a great zest for life and a grand passion for Design. He was truly a Renaissance architect, in that he loved all of the Arts, and embraced the full spectrum of their practices. He saw the potential of Design, as a change agent, and spent his energies on educating the individuals, who would become those agents of change. He loved the work, the ideas, the students, his colleagues, and the College. Despite the complexity and challenges, he always made the CoD thrive !!! My deepest condolences to Cindy, who was his partner and supporter in all of his endeavors.

  5. Heather King says:

    Very sad news, he will be missed and always remembered.

  6. Engin Kapkın says:

    I am very sorry and deeply sad to hear the loss of Marvin Malecha, our very own former dean of College of Design at NCState. I had an opportunity assist his Design Thinking course. it was an experience more like re-learning design for life! I will miss our short conversations on design and religion, politics, life and design again which impacted my and others’ design mindset! I visited him on my last days at States. He said that the pack has another ambassador in Turkey, I was so proud to hear. He was a good egg, a great mentor, a life-coach teacher and had an impactful life for design.

    Once he brought a very sophisticated mindset on how complex and chaotic the way the design process and thinking are during one of our short conversations. I mentioned it to my wife! she was so impressed that she made a ceramic pot for him that expresses these thoughts. We gifted the pot; he was so happy to have it. I will always remember his warm smile that he had at that moment.

  7. Melinda ( MINDY) Sopher says:

    Such a great loss to the profession and to our university…. Sympathies to his family and to the NC State College of Design Family as well.

  8. Tony Wayne says:

    So sad to hear about Marvin. We knew each other and his wife during the soccer years when his daughter and mine played for the SPEED.. I would run into him now and then with the red mustang when my other daughter graduated from the college of design. He was a great gentleman and will be missed.

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