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John H. Spencer, FAIA


Norfolk, Virginia


Architecture eduction, community development

John Henri Spencer, FAIA—an architect, landscape architect, and educator—was named the recipient of the 1989 Whitney Young Award for his efforts to create a more diverse architecture field.


Based in Norfolk, Virginia, Spencer spent much of his design career volunteering his services to develop architecture programs at Howard University, Southern University, Tuskegee University, and Prairie View A&M University. An active member on the Council of Black Architectural Schools, he was instrumental in initiating the Title III grant proposal that offered federal funding to support architecture programs at historically black schools.


Bom in Liberia, Spencer earned an architecture degree with highest honors from Hampton University in 1956. After studying and teaching landscape architecture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he became the director of architecture at Hampton University, where he revamped curriculum and grew enrollment from 56 students in 1970 to 210 by 1982.


“In a quiet but aggressive way, he has raised the consciousness of architects and related professional organizations toward greater involvement of minorities in educational institutions and related professional organizations,” said former AIA President R. Randall Vosbeck, FAIA, in a letter nominating Spencer for the award.

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