The American Institute of Architects
(AIA) have selected Clyde Porter, FAIA, as the 2009 recipient of the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award, given to an architect or architecturally oriented organization exemplifying the profession’s responsibility toward current social issues. Porter will be presented with the award at the 2009 AIA national convention.
The award honors civil rights leader Whitney M. Young Jr., proponent of social change and head of the Urban League from 1961 until his death in 1971. At the 1968 AIA Annual Convention, Young challenged architects to more actively increase participation in the profession by minorities and women. Porter, a Dallas-based architect and facilities administrator was recognized for his work encouraging minority, underserved, and low-income students to see themselves as architects and stewards of the built environment, and for extending the fruits of higher education to these same communities through his job with the largest undergraduate institution in the state of Texas.
“It is clear that Porter has always charted a course that allowed room for those whose paths are fraught with obstacles, and our culture and profession are better for it,” wrote AIA board member Jeff Potter, AIA, in his nomination letter for Porter.
For 21 years, Porter has been at the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) overseeing its facilities, campus planning, and building efforts. As associate vice chancellor of facilities at DCCCD, Porter oversees $700 million worth of buildings that house and educate approximately 100,000 students on seven campuses—the largest undergraduate program in the state. This work has given him the opportunity to create education facilities that, as a relatively affordable community college, are often low-income and minority families’ first taste of post-secondary school success.
Porter has done much more than help offer educational opportunities to disadvantaged communities. While at DCCCD (and at his previous job as chief architect of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit agency), Porter started initiatives to ensure that female- and minority-run architecture, engineering, and contracting firms were hired for greater proportions of work. Fifty percent of commissions by DCCCD have since gone to female- and minority-owned firms, proving that these drastically increased proportions of minority participation are possible in the building design and construction industry, and that good work results from them.
Porter, a cofounder of the Texas chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects, has built a legacy of inviting emerging and minority architects into the profession beyond hiring them for work. At the DCCCD, he established an intern program, and he regularly recruits from his alma mater, Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Tex., a historically African-American university. As chair of AIA Dallas’ Minority Resources Committee, Porter also began a summer internship program for minority architects. He also made it a habit to reach out to children before they reach college and encourage them to envision themselves as architects. He regularly speaks at elementary and middle school career days, explaining the ways that architects can change and grow their own communities to minority and low-income kids.
Past recipients of the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award include J. Max Bond, FAIA (1987), Habitat for Humanity (1988), Curtis J. Moody, FAIA (1992), and the National Organization of Minority Architects (2007).