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 Phillip Rollfing  

100 years of architectural education

A preliminary historical outline of the first century of the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University



EDITOR’S NOTE: Readers are urged to report errors in this brief history of the Texas A&M College of Architecture to Phillip Rollfing at

By Phillip Rollfing

One hundred years ago this June, the first graduates of Texas’ first formal architectural education program received their degrees from what was then the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, and is today Texas A&M University.

There were three of them — James S. Dean, Max F. Mayer and J. Rodney Tabor — and all three went on to enjoy successful careers as architects.

Thus began a legacy of achievement that over a century grew to encompass all of the built environment disciplines, a cast of truly remarkable educators, and more than 14,000 graduates — architects, landscape architects, builders, planners, preservationists, special effect wizards and scholars — even a celebrated broadcast journalist, an award-winning Hollywood set designer, countless artists and a U.S. Army general.

The list is as endless as the stories are unique, but they all had one thing in common with their predecessors in the Class of 1906 — the integrity, loyalty, leadership, selfless service, friendliness and a commitment to excellence that is the hallmark of this unique American institution — Texas A&M University.

About this document

This document offers a glimpse into the history of Texas A&M University programs in the built and virtual environments, tracing their evolution through the decades. The document supplements the original 50-year history, prepared in 1956 by former architecture department head Ernest Langford. However, this is only a preliminary narrative — a draft outline, prepared for the College of Architecture’s March 31, 2006 Centennial Celebration. A comprehensive history, currently being prepared by college archivist and senior faculty member John Only Greer, is scheduled for publication at a later date.

THE FOUNDATION: Our First 50 Years

From the first in Texas to the largest in the nation with more than 14,000 graduates and 1,700 current students — that, in a nutshell, is the story of the Texas A&M College of Architecture’s first 100 years.

But before picking up where Ernest Langford left off in his 50-year history of the A&M architectural education program, here’s a brief review of those first five decades.

Approximately 50 years ago, on March 27, 1956, the architecture program at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas had a birthday party that, aside from today’s multimedia technology and fashion sense, was probably pretty similar to the College of Architecture’s March 31, 2006 Centennial Celebration. Presiding over the event was Professor Ernest Langford, who had then served as head of the architecture department for 27 years.

From the day he entered Texas A&M as a freshman in 1909, until the day he retired as Professor Emeritus, few individuals have been as closely tied to Texas A&M and the architecture program as it grew and developed in the first half of the 20th Century.

Pausing at that milestone in 1956, Langford had a similar, albeit more modest boast than the one above. In its first 50 years, Texas’ first architectural education program had grown from 10 to 317 students; from three graduates in the Class of 1906, to 65 members of the Class of 1956; and in the course of those first five decades, it had awarded a total of 953 degrees.

That total has since grown to more than 14,000!

“A fact worth recording — and one that augers well for the profession and for our social wellbeing,” Langford wrote in his 50 year history of the program, “is that scores of graduates have accepted responsibilities beyond the ordinary business of earning a living. Some are members of city councils; others are on planning and zoning commissions, and school boards.”

It is refreshing to note that the core values associated with the Aggie tradition were readily evident among architecture students in the first half of the 20th Century. The faculty was then, and are now, in the business of empowering positive change — developing leaders of character with the education, experience and desire to serve the greater good.

Langford knew this, and today the College of Architecture still takes that mission seriously.

Our founder

Of course, a proper review of the A&M architecture program’s history should start at the beginning, September 1, 1905, four years before Ernest Langford enrolled for his freshman studies. That was the year seniors James S. Dean, Max F. Mayer and J. Rodney Tabor made a last-minute change to their degree plans.

That change was made possible by the new curriculum in architectural engineering, which was developed and taught by Dr. Frederick E. Giesecke.

A wunderkind of the first magnitude, Giesecke, like Langford and many of the program’s most successful students, was a product of the A&M Corps of Cadets. An excellent student and former captain in the Corps, Giesecke joined the A&M faculty after graduating in 1886 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering.

He was only 17 years old!

Within two years, at age 19, he was appointed head of A&M’s Department of Mechanical Drawing. He completed a Mechanical Engineering degree at A&M in 1890, and in the ensuing years, while still on the A&M faculty, he studied architectural drawing at Cornell University and architectural design at Massachusetts Institute of Technology — where he earned a degree in architecture in 1904.

It was upon returning to College Station that Giesecke developed a curriculum in architectural engineering. He served as head of the A&M architecture program until 1912 when he took a job as professor of architecture at the University of Texas. There, until 1920, he engaged primarily in research as head of the Division of Engineering’s Bureau of Economic Geology and Technology.

In 1924, Giesecke earned his fourth degree, a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Then, in 1927, he returned to Texas A&M as head of the Department of Architecture and the official college architect. Within a year, he was named head of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station.

He was, without question, the first Aggie architect.

Through 1939, Giesecke designed and supervised the construction of many campus buildings that are still standing today, including the Academic Building, the Chemistry Building, the Williams Building, Cushing Library and Hart and Walton halls.

Giesecke’s life was characterized by his desire to learn by study, experimentation and observation. His daily notebook contained an entry from an experiment he was conducting just two hours before he died of a heart attack on June 27, 1953.

Following in Frederick Giesecke’s footsteps, as Aggies and designers who contributed significantly to Texas architecture, were his son-in-law, Preston Geren, Sr., Class of 1912, and his grandson, Preston Geren, Jr., Class of 1945.

Leaders and locations

Between Giesecke and Langford, a number of distinguished scholars and practitioners shared the helm of the fledgling department of architecture at Texas A&M, and each left their own unique signature on its destiny.

      Fredrick E. Giesecke ...............1905-12

      S.J. Fountain ........................1912-14

      Rolland Adelsperger ................1915-18

      E.B. LaRoche .....................1918-1925

      H.N. June .............................1925-27

      Fredrick E. Giesecke ...............1927-29

      Ernest Langford .....................1929-56

When founded in 1905, the architecture classes were held in Drawing Room No. 2 of the original Old Main building. In 1909, Ernest Langford’s freshman year, the program was taught in Nagle Hall. In 1914, the Academic Building became home for the architecture program and remained so for the next 49 years.

Texas A&M’s construction education program was established in 1946 as a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Construction. It was a five-year, 178-credit-hour option in the Department of Architecture.

Caudill Rowlett Scott

Of course, no history of the first 50 years of architectural education at Texas A&M would be complete without folding Caudill Rowlett Scott into the mix.

Of all of the architectural firms that have influenced the architectural education and research programs at Texas A&M University in the last 100 years — and there have been many — none have had as profound an impact on Aggie architecture as Caudill Rowlett Scott.

Founded in Austin as Caudill Rowlett in 1946 by full-time A&M architecture professors William Wayne Caudill and John Miles Rowlett, the firm moved to College Station in 1947 and began a lasting relationship with the A&M architecture program. In a short time, the firm acquired three new partners — Caudill’s former students Wallie E. Scott, Jr., Class of 1943, and William Peña, Class of 1942, who were later joined by Thomas A. Bullock, Class of 1946.

In less than a decade from its inception, CRS had gained national prominence for its pioneering work in educational facility design and innovative approaches to architectural programming.

From the beginning, CRS developed new methods and processes, creating an alternative paradigm for the practice of architecture. Research, much of it performed with faculty and students at Texas A&M, became the “fountainhead of ideas” for the firm and a basis for informing teaching and design in the A&M classrooms.

As professors, Caudill and Rowlett advocated the teaching of practice, an idea countering the popular notion of the time that professors should not be allowed to practice. Further bucking tradition, CRS eagerly published their research findings, making them available to both clients and competitors. Today, many CRS innovations are still commonly practiced and widely taught in the classroom, including: the building type specialist; design by team; problem seeking; squatters’ sessions; construction management and fast-track construction.

Despite the pressures of developing a constantly growing practice, the architects of CRS always made time for A&M students, involving them and faculty in research and design projects and participating in studio reviews. Several generations of A&M architecture alumni referred affectionately to CRS as “The Firm.” Those talented enough to join its ranks upon completing their degrees knew it as the “best graduate school” around.

In 1959, the firm relocated its headquarters to Houston and continued to expand its practice. In time, CRS became known as one of the largest, most successful firms in the country.

On April 1, 2006, when the College of Architecture kicked off its yearlong centennial celebration, CRS was recognized for its indelible influence on the college as the “Firm of the Century.”

Ernest Langford

Back in 1956, Professor Langford was likely beaming with pride as he stood behind the podium at the 50-year anniversary gala, recounting the progress of the architecture program he had stewarded for 27 years — most of which he had witnessed first hand, since his days as a wet-eared freshman back in 1909.

“The department was a struggling infant in the early days,” Langford once recalled. “We graduated only three or four men a year. At the time of my retirement we had more than 300 architecture majors and graduated about 50 a year.”

Professor Langford had dedicated himself to inspiring others to their highest achievements. His interest in his students, his understanding of their needs, and his sharing of their aspirations was clearly demonstrated by the successes those students enjoyed.

An editorial appearing in the Bryan-College Station Eagle after Langford’s death in Sept. 14, 1981 read:

“Few men who measure their accomplishments against their dreams as life nears its end can be truly satisfied with the final tally. Count Ernest Langford as worthy of that privilege.”

“During his lifetime,” the editorial concluded, “Langford not only watched as his dream became reality, he worked to insure its success. He brought a dedication and zeal to every task he undertook, and the entire community benefited from it. He was, in a very real sense, the builder of a community and a positive influence on generations of men. That is a legacy worthy of both respect and imitation.”


The beginning of the Texas A&M architecture program’s sixth decade marked the transformation of the Department of Architecture to the Division of Architecture. Though still housed in the College of Engineering, the curriculum now encompassed landscape architecture, which migrated from the agriculture division with Professor Fred Klatt, Jr. in 1957. A year later, the Master of Landscape Architecture program was established.

Reagan W. George, Class of 1958, recalled those heady post-war days when Professor Edward Romieniec’s “T-Bird with the porthole” was the envy of every student:

“We drooled and talked big about what kind of car we would have when we were rich. We never touched it, we would only get as close as possible — but so that no breath would fog it. It was there, behind the Academic Building parked in the drive right next to the building. On display so we all saw it as we entered the building and as we returned from the mess hall in the evening. It was tempting. How we ignored the opportunity to pull a prank, I’ll never know.”

On a more serious note, Reagan wrote in his college-days essay, “These Things I Remember”:

“The Profs — Jack Lemmon, Dik Voorman, Ted Holloman, Bob Anderson and Ed Romieniec. The leading cast — but strongly supported by Melvin Rotsch, Joe Donaldson, and Jack Godwin. Note this collection of mostly wizards! It was what every architecture student in America wished for. They just didn’t know it.”

Heading the division of architecture in this, the sixth decade were:

      Ernest Langford ...........through 1956

      Charles R. Colbert ..............1956-57

      Theo R. Holleman ...............1957-62

      Edward Rominiec ................1962-73

Toward the end of the decade, after almost 50 years, the architecture program moved from its headquarters in the Academic Building, into new digs — what is today known as Buildings B and C of the Langford Architecture Center.

It was also during this 10-year stretch from 1955 to 1965, that the architecture program at Texas A&M really gelled — reaching a “critical mass” later realized by the extraordinary professional accomplishments of students from that era.

View quicktime: Raymond Gomez, Class of 1964
( High: 10.5 Mb | Medium: 3.8 Mb | Low: 1.5 mb)


But it all came together in the decade of 1966 to 1975. Just a few years prior, in 1963, the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas became Texas A&M University and women were officially admitted — on a limited basis. By 1971, A&M caught up with the feminist movement, and women gained equal footing with the men.

1969 was a landmark year. The Architecture Division broke ranks with Engineering and the College of Architecture and Environmental Design was formed. This move precipitated a great deal of change and overseeing it all was the first dean, Edward J. Romieniec.

Under Romieniec’s able stewardship, the college became home to five departments:

1. Environmental Design,

2. Architecture,

3. Building Construction,

4. Landscape Architecture, and

5. Urban and Regional Planning.

Within these departments, seven degrees were offered:

• Bachelor of Environmental Design;

• Master of Architecture;

• Bachelor of Science in Building Construction;

• Bachelor of Landscape Architecture;

• Master of Landscape Architecture;

• Master of Urban and Regional Planning; and

• Doctor of Environmental Design.

Edward J. Romieniec

Romieniec is often mentioned — often fondly, but always respectfully — time and again in the reminiscences of former students and faculty. His legacy remains very much alive in today’s design studios and course curricula.

“Ed Romieniec’s inspiration and career-long drive to demolish the formal barriers between academia and practice was one of his more beneficial contributions to architectural education,” wrote Weston Harper, who served as head of the Department of Architecture from 1969-1973.

In 1985, Romieniec received the Texas Society of Architects’ Award for Excellence in Architectural Education — the first such award to be presented and an award that today bears his name. One might say Romieniec was the reason the award was created.

He served as a member of the A&M faculty from 1956 until 1960, and again from 1963 until his retirement in 1988. Prior being named dean in 1968, he served as head of the Division of Architecture. In 1967, Romieniec was commissioned by the governor to study the needs and patterns of architectural education in Texas. The results of his study and his recommendations were published in 1990 and became the basis for significant changes in architectural education throughout the state. He died in 1996, at the age of 75.

“Ed staffed the early college faculty by bringing in young practitioners and arranging for them to work on an advanced degree while they were teaching the ‘working’ dimensions of architecture,” recalled Harper, the former department head. “I was one of them,” he added.

“Ed was indeed a riddle wrapped in an enigma,” recalled George J. Mann, a former Romieniec student who currently serves as the Ronald L. Skaggs Endowed Professor of Health Facilities Design at Texas A&M. “He was generous, irreverent, visionary, intuitive and perceptive. He had a keen sense of design, was irascible, and he kept us all off of balance most of the time.”

“He also gave people a second chance,” Mann continued. “He treated us like unique and special individuals. He did not push me to be someone else. He did push me to become the person I could be.”

Romieniec stepped down form the dean’s post and began teaching fulltime in 1973. For the next six years, Dr. Raymond Reed, took the helm of the growing college.

During this period of dramatic transformation at Texas A&M, the country was experiencing a heightened social consciousness. For some students, that meant involvement in the community beyond the classroom and studio — that “other education,” which has become an integral part of the Texas A&M student experience.

View quicktime: Marvin Daniels, Class of 1971
( High: 18 Mb | Medium: 7 Mb | Low: 2 mb)


The transformation that began in the college’s seventh decade continued in the eighth, as did the building program. In 1977, Langford Building A was constructed for the princely sum of $7 million. The building was designed by former student Jack R. Yardley, Class of 1958, and was built by HKS in Dallas — a firm that was founded by Harwood K. Smith, Class of 1935 and Distinguished Alumnus of the College of Architecture.

The growth in the college’s academic programs continued.

• In 1977, the Department of Building Construction established a Master’s degree program in Building Construction.

• Also, in 1977, the Technical Reference Center — an architectural reference library — was established at the college.

• In 1981, a Master in Construction Management was introduced.

• In 1982, the Historic Resources Imaging Lab — which is today, the Center for Heritage Preservation — was established.

• In 1983, the Department of Building Construction changed its name to the Department of Construction Science.

• In 1985, a Master of Land Development degree was first offered.

• Also in 1985, the Department of Environmental Design changed its name to the Department of Architecture.

In addition to Dr. Raymond Reed, who held the dean’s post until 1979, his successor, Charles Hix, guided the college and its rapidly evolving programs through 1985.

Throughout this transformative period, landscape architecture student George Seagrave ’80, noted that the college managed to maintain a personal feel that encouraged a new generation to appreciate the special qualities of a Texas A&M education.

View quicktime: George Seagrave, Class of 1980
( High: 10.8 Mb | Medium: 3.8 Mb | Low: 1.5 mb)


The founder of A&M’s architectural education program, Dr. Fredrick Giesecke, understood the value of research. He passed away, after all, in the middle of an experiment. If Giesecke planted the research seed in A&M’s fledgling architecture program, over the decades countless others, like Ernest Langford, Bill Caudill and Edward Romieniec, nurtured it.

However, the quest for new knowledge at the College of Architecture reached fruition in its ninth decade — 1985-1995 — with burgeoning emphasis on graduate programs and research. Though often remembered as a contentious period, this decade laid the groundwork for a college where new knowledge could be created, and most importantly, translated into the classroom, the studio and professional practice.

J. Thomas Regan, who at this writing has been dean of the college since 1998, said, “one of the organizing principles of the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University is the influence of research on teaching.”

Here at the dawn of a new millennium, design schools that emphasize research are rare. And though the college suffered some growing pains in the 80s and 90s, the processes did strengthen its reputation as a research center.

Here are just a few of the fruits harvested from that effort:

• In 1986, a two Ph.D. degrees were established: a Ph.D. in Architecture and a Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Science.

• In 1988, the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center and the Visualization Laboratory were established.

• One year later, in 1989, the Master of Science in Visualization Sciences program was established and a Master of Science in Architecture was created.

• In 1991, three more research units were established at the College of Architecture:

• The CRS Center for Leadership and Management in the Design and Construction Industry;

• The Psychophysiology Laboratory; and

• The Center for Housing and Urban Development.

• In 1994, the Center for Health Systems & Design moved from the College of Medicine to the College of Architecture.

College-wide research units, such as these, continue to significantly influence the professions and industries of the built and virtual environment, as well as the college, through the discovery and application of new knowledge.

Additionally in that decade:

• In 1992, a Bachelor of Science in Construction Science was offered and the Master of Architecture Career Change program was initiated.

• Also in 1992, Landscape Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning merged into the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning.

Among these new programs was one in particular that captured the imagination of some of the college’s most imaginative students — as well as the attention of Hollywood’s leading special effects studios and the electronic gaming industry — that was the new Master of Science in Visualization Science, or “Viz” for short.

The Visualization Sciences program was created in 1989 in response to clear indications that digital visualization was going to play a highly important role in digital communication. The program prepares students for a range of long-term careers in visualization and helps them develop the focused expertise and broad foundation knowledge needed in this rapidly developing field. The program's core curriculum offers a basic grasp of the artistic, scientific, cognitive, and technical foundations of the discipline. Beyond this broad training, the program requires students to develop a strong focus area of advanced expertise, and to complete a research thesis in this focus area.

Navigating the college through yet another transformative decade were deans:

      Donald Sweeny ...................1985 - 88

      Michael McCarthy ................1988 - 92

      John Only Greer .........................1992


      Walter Wendler ..................1992 - 97

View quicktime: Tim McLaughlin, Class of 1994
( High: 10.5 Mb | Medium: 3.5 Mb | Low: 1.5 mb)


Throughout the last ten years, the College of Architecture has continued to hone its teaching, research and service mission with a special emphasis on interdisciplinary work and professional collaboration with industry partners.

Bringing direction to the college at then dawn of a new millennium were and are deans:

      Walter Wendler ..................1992 – 97

      Ward Wells ........................1997 – 98


      J. Thomas Regan ........1998 to present

The college has also identified three signature programs to benefit from Texas A&M President Robert Gate’s ongoing faculty reinvestment initiative: architecture-for-health, sustainability and visualization.

With approximately 1,700 students currently majoring in its programs, the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University is the largest school of its kind in the United States. It offers a comprehensive catalog of prominently ranked graduate and undergraduate programs in the design, planning, construction, development and visualization professions.

The three departments in the college — architecture, construction science, and landscape architecture and urban planning — are each fully accredited at the highest possible level and together offer 12 degree programs including doctorates in Architecture and Urban and Regional Sciences. Additionally the college sustains five formally organized research centers and laboratories dedicated to improving the knowledge base of the professions it serves and supporting five graduate certification programs.

The college is distinctive in that it offers a truly interdisciplinary curriculum, recognizing that no single professional track or narrow specialization can adequately prepare tomorrow’s building and planning professionals.

Though quite diverse, the disciplines within the college have one predominant commonality — the transformation of the human environment.

Because the creativity and sensitivity with which each discipline is practiced has a profound influence on the quality of life in society, the college challenges students to weave aesthetics, safety, function, financial feasibility, sustainability, and environmental responsibility into the creative process.

As part of a university community that values excellence in teaching, our instructors work to ensure that students are well prepared by course work that includes fundamentals as well as the more innovative concepts, spawned by research and scholarly debate.

The college also belongs to and serves the professional communities of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, land development, construction science, and visualization sciences. It is dedicated to generating significant knowledge and insight and to producing a long line of qualified aspirants for the jobs of tomorrow.

In spring 2006 commencement was be held for the College of Architecture’s 100th graduating class. Evident in the college’s Class of 2006 is the century of leadership, selfless service, integrity, and commitment to excellence that is their legacy and the hallmark of the College of Architecture programs. They are destined to become leaders of character with the education, experience and desire to serve the greater good. And, as demonstrated in this brief history — they stand tall, on the shoulders of giants.


- The End -

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100 year anniversary commemorative video.
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Raymond Gomez,
class of 1964.
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Marvin Daniels,
class of 1971.
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George Seagrave,
class of 1980.
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Tim McLaughlin,
class of 1994.
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Natalie Franz,
class of 2006.
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