In the early 1960's, the University of Maryland at College Park decided to consider establishing a professional program in architecture. The professional community strongly supported the initiative; at the time, no professional architecture programs were offered in the state. University President Wilson Elkins requested advice on the inauguration of the program from the American Institute of Architects. Institute President Charles Nes, a Baltimore Architect, formed an A.I.A. advisory commission, with himself as chairman, and in 1964 the commission issued its recommendations to the University. Among them were that the program be located on the UMCP campus and that consideration be given to establishing an undergraduate major in architecture and a graduate program leading to the professional Master of Architecture degree.
The paperwork required by the Maryland higher education commission for approval of the new program included a brief outlining the justification for the program, initial operating budget projections, and a planning budget for new facilities. (Ultimately, Charles Nes's firm, Fisher Nes Campbell Partners, was selected to design the permanent building for the School.) In the interim, the University designated Building DD, a temporary World War II building, as the first home for the School. By the time the School moved into its new building in 1971, our little home campus had grown to include Building DD and four additional temporary structures.
In the spring of 1967, after a national search, the University invited John W. Hill, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Kentucky, to accept the deanship. In order to ensure that he and the University were on the same page, Professor Hill wrote a ‘white paper' to the University outlining his thoughts about the management and growth of the school, and the resources and components needed to ensure the program's quality. It described the need for an architectural ‘slides' collection and an architectural library in the school, argued for the presence of a supply store and a coffee shop, and described a future in which academic programs in landscape architecture, urban planning and architectural historic preservation might also be offered. The white paper helped facilitate communication between the dean and the University as the fledgling program was initiated and grew. Vice President for Academic Affairs R. Lee Hornbake, to whom the dean reported, was notably supportive as the fledgling program began to spread its wings. He was instrumental in the School's achievement of its early successes.
In the spring and summer of 1967, Dean Hill designed alterations to Building DD to house offices, classrooms, a slides library and a branch library, and hired the first four faculty members, John Wiebenson, Dale Hutton, Rurik Ekstrom and Robert Bell. Calliopi ‘Poppy' Ratcliff was recruited from another campus position as administrative assistant to the dean, and Elizabeth Alley was recruited to establish the visual aids collection. Poppy was fluent in University procedures and mechanisms, and as time passed became a much-admired expert on all things essential to the happiness of the dean, faculty and students. Betsy had been involved in the management of the art and architecture visual aids collection at Princeton; fortuitously, she moved to UMCP with her physicist husband just in time to join our school and lead in the formation of what has become one of the finest visual aids collections in the United States, at the present writing going ‘digital'. Berna Neal was hired by the University Library to manage the architecture library. She was considered a de facto member of the school's community. Berna was instrumental in directing the formation of a collection which started out as 5000 volumes and is now considered one of the finest architectural libraries in the nation. With Berna's appointment, staffing was complete for the arrival of the school's first students.
Noting that fifty-seven students were on campus waiting for the school to start in the fall of '67, Dean Hill convinced Dr. Hornbake that the program should initially be offered as a five-year undergraduate program leading to a Bachelor of Architecture professional degree. At the time, B.Arch. professional degree programs were beginning to give way to M.Arch. professional degree programs. Initiating the program at Maryland as a five-year program would enhance our ability to recruit qualified students and form a strong foundation for the transformation to an M.Arch. professional degree program when the school came of age. (In 1980, the transition was successfully inaugurated.) The dean's year-by-year curricular development plan for the School was based on limiting the number of students in, and avoiding duplicate sections of, required courses. It resulted in a School size of about three hundred architecture students. The plan comprised the basis of our successful argument for selective admissions to the School, a first for University of Maryland undergraduate programs, and established a definitive program for the design of the School's permanent building. We were off and running.