UMD Alums Legacy of Education Lives on Through Lecture Series


In 1983, Samuel J. LeFrak, an accomplished developer and planner who made a name for himself in shaping New York City’s middle class housing, started a lecture series at the University of Maryland as a way to honor the place LeFrak said “gave me welcome, warmth and enlightenment” as a young transplant from New York City. A 1940 graduate of UMD, LeFrak had a passion for making cities work more dynamically, a legacy that continues with the lecture series. Since its inception, the LeFrak lecture series has welcomed planning experts from around the world to UMD, offering an intimate and informative view of the many challenges facing the built environment.


This year marks the 30th anniversary of the LeFrak lecture series at the University of Maryland. Launched in 1983 with a lecture by renowned French geographer Jean Gottman, who spoke on “The Coming of the Transactional City,” the series has covered important aspects of city planning, transportation issues and the social constructs of urban environs. For the first 20 years of the series, monographs—short print runs of the specific topic covered—were created for each speaker. While the topics have changed over the years to reflect the evolving concerns and landscape of the built environment, the caliber has not; speakers have included Peter Marris, Lyn Lofland and Richard Sennett, each offering a new perspective to compliment and round out coursework not only for planning, but also for architecture, public policy and other disciplines.


“The Lefrak Lectureship gives the students an opportunity to meet and hear the current thinking of the most prominent national scholars in the urban planning field,” explains Professor Marie Howland. “The LeFrak events include an evening presentation and then a follow up seminar the next day, where students and faculty can pursue and discuss with the lecturer the ideas they heard the night before.”


This year’s lecture featured Dr. Martin Wachs, a seasoned academic in planning and most recently a senior principal researcher at RAND, a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and teaching at UCLA. Dr. Wachs is an expert in the field of transportation finance, a subject he broke down in more detail during the following day’s workshop, allowing students a more intimate discussion.


“I enjoyed being able to speak with Dr. Wachs personally the morning after the lecture, at the informal forum which allowed students, the public, and professors to ask questions,” said Nick Finio, a first year planning student. “The lecture was an excellent primer for the land use and transportation class I will be taking next spring.”

Posted on January 7, 2014 by Paul Brown, III