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Architecture Dean Gaunt stepping down after 21 years

Thursday, June 11, 2015

LAWRENCE — John Gaunt, who has led the University of Kansas School of Architecture, Design & Planning since 1994, will soon step down as dean of the school; however, he will continue as a full-time faculty member.

While at KU he served on more than two dozen universitywide committees, many of which drew upon his experience as an architect and designer. He was a member of the KU Master Plan Steering Committee and the Campus Historic Preservation Board as well as the building committee for School of Business’s new Capitol Federal Hall. Gaunt is currently on the committee for the Health Education building at KU Medical Center.

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said, “We can all agree that as a remarkable leader and team builder — and creative force — John has left a legacy at KU.  Twenty-one years is an extraordinary tenure for a dean of a major unit at a prominent U.S. university. His influence will be seen far into the future.”

Prior to coming to KU, Gaunt was with the Minneapolis-based architecture and engineering firm Ellerbe Becket for 18 years and served as its CEO and president for six years. During that time the firm became the largest in the U.S.

While earning his master's degree in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, he studied with famed architect Louis Kahn. His career has included 25 years of professional practice and 21 years as an academic dean.

“John came to KU at a period of time when the tradition of hiring an accomplished architect or designer as a dean was coming to an end,” said Stephen Grabow, professor of architecture. “But his experience as the leader of a global firm prepared him well. Under his leadership, the departments of Design and Urban Planning were established, and our design-build programs, including Studio 804, became internationally known.

“He made the impossible happen,” Grabow said. “The Center for Design Research was established by him, and a new building was built for it, and our East Hills Construction Innovation Laboratory building east of Lawrence was purchased. The universal study-abroad requirement for students coming through the architecture program is unprecedented.”

At a reception held recently for Gaunt, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said, “We thank you for your leadership, your vision, your commitment to the school and for being the kind of person that you are.”

Mahesh Daas, who is currently the chair of the Department of Architecture at Ball State University, will become the school’s new dean Monday, June 15.