Architect’s gift opens doors for underrepresented graduate students
The Clemson University School of Architecture is honored to announce a newly endowed fellowship for historically underserved and underrepresented students, thanks to a grant from architect and Clemson alumnus Thomas Phifer ’75, M ’77. The Thomas Phifer Fellowship will support tuition in the School of Architecture for two graduate students for two years from underserved and underrepresented communities, in an effort to increase access and broaden a more diverse pathway within the profession of architecture in South Carolina.
“By opening new opportunities to underserved and underrepresented communities, we strengthen the diversity of voices in our lives, offering the promise of a more inclusive, open and welcoming architecture,” said Thomas Phifer. “My hope is that others will join me in supporting this fellowship fund that provides an education that is open to all people.”
In addition, Phifer is establishing an annual, year-long preceptorship in his New York studio for a School of Architecture graduate student in their second year of study.
“Thomas Phifer is a point of pride as an alumnus of the School,” said School of Architecture Director James Stevens. “This gift is essential in supporting our underrepresented students, who might otherwise not be able to pursue architecture as a career. Not only does it commit to supporting them financially, but it also commits to mentoring and training selected students in Thomas’ studio—a priceless contribution to our students, institution and profession.”
The School of Architecture has an important historical role in the University’s progress toward greater diversity. Harvey Gantt, Clemson’s first African American graduate, is a School of Architecture alumnus, earning his B.A. in architecture with Honors in 1965. Ray Huff, director of the Clemson Design Center in Charleston, was one of the first African American students to follow in Gantt’s footsteps, and he has spearheaded efforts to increase the diversity of the School of Architecture’s student body.
“This fellowship will provide an unprecedented opportunity for students of color to pursue architecture as a vocation, enabling their voices, instincts and unique vantage to become purposeful and heralded in the canon of architecture,” Ray Huff said.
Nicholas Vazsonyi, Dean of Clemson University’s College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities welcomed the gift as one that would directly support the College’s vision.
“Our College has been proud to lead the University in recruiting underrepresented students, but much works remains,” Vazsonyi said. “Thomas Phifer’s generosity advances our goals for creating a more diverse student body in a critically important graduate program.”
“I want to honor the state of South Carolina where I was born and raised, a place that means so much to me, by elevating the presence of a more diverse community. The School of Architecture was the beginning of everything for me. That transformative experience so many years ago is still alive in me today, and I would like to pass along this inclusive ethos to the next generation. If we all learn this way, then we will teach this way,” said Phifer.
About Thomas Phifer
Since founding Thomas Phifer and Partners in 1997, Thomas Phifer has completed an expansion of the Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland, an expansion of the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, the United States Courthouse in Salt Lake City, Utah, the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina, the Raymond and Susan Brochstein Pavilion at Rice University in Houston, Texas, an outdoor performance pavilion in Austin, and numerous houses in the Hudson River Valley of New York State.
Ongoing projects include the Museum of Modern Art and TR Warszawa Theatre in Warsaw, Cine Colombia headquarters in Bogotá, a student center and an International Studies Center for Indiana University in Bloomington, and the South Battery Park City Resiliency Project in Lower Manhattan. Thomas Phifer is also engaged in private residences in Portugal, Texas, Maine and New York.
Thomas Phifer received the prestigious Rome Prize in Architecture from the American Academy in Rome in 1995 and was awarded the Medal of Honor from the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2004. He was elected as an Academician of the National Academy of Design in 2011. In 2013, Mr. Phifer received the Arts and Letters Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2016, he was honored by the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects with the President’s Award and by the Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation. He also gave the 2016 keynote lecture at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London. In 2019, he was awarded the National Design Award in Architectural Design from the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. Mr. Phifer is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and serves on the boards of the Architectural League of New York and the Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation.
Thomas Phifer has served as a visiting professor at numerous architecture schools, including the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Cooper Union, University of Southern California, University of Texas, University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. Mr. Phifer has been appointed the William Henry Bishop Visiting Professor of Architectural Design and the Louis I Kahn Visiting Professor of Architectural Design, both at the Yale School of Architecture. Mr. Phifer received his Bachelor of Architecture in 1975 and his Master of Architecture in 1977, both from Clemson University. In 1977 he studied at the Clemson Architecture Center in Genoa, Italy.
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