Marvin J. Malecha, the visionary dean who championed research, expanded academic programs and spearheaded global engagement in NC State’s College of Design, will retire from the university at the end of the semester after more than two decades of service. He has accepted the position of president and chief academic officer at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design in San Diego, California.
When the Harvard-educated architect arrived at NC State in 1994, the design school already had a reputation for innovation and experimentation. From its founding in 1948, the school attracted some of the leading thinkers of the modern era, including inventor Buckminster Fuller, who taught students to design a geodesic cotton mill in 1949, and architect Eduardo Catalano, lauded by House and Home magazine in 1954 for designing the “House of the Decade.” The Raleigh residence was celebrated for its hyperbolic paraboloid roof.
Malecha had big ideas of his own and quickly put his stamp on the college. Under his leadership, the college began offering a Ph.D. in design in 2000 and a Master of Art and Design in 2002. An undergraduate major in design studies was added in 2010.
The dean launched a host of innovative programs for students, including the Fish Market gallery, the student and academic services office and the William Keating Bayley Information Technology Laboratory. The college’s student design publication was re-established with a supporting endowment in 2004, and the college research office opened in 2013.
Malecha also boosted pre-college programs, including the innovative Design Lab for K12 Education, an outreach effort that provides education programs for students and teachers throughout the year.
Global engagement became a major focus for the college during Malecha’s tenure. The college established a branch campus in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, in 2005. In 2012 the college began requiring students to participate in an international experience before graduation and has since offered study-abroad opportunities worldwide.
Locally, the college incubated Raleigh’s nonprofit Contemporary Art Museum from 2009 to 2014.
Malecha also ramped up the college’s alumni engagement efforts, restructuring the Design Foundation into two advisory groups: the Designlife Board and the Leaders Council. He oversaw a substantial increase in private giving to the college, which now exceeds $2 million annually.
Malecha has taught the college’s design thinking course to first-year students for 21 years, and he recently authored a book on the subject.
He gained a measure of fame on campus in 2010 when two design students painted an Andy Warhol-inspired mural in the university’s Free Expression Tunnel featuring stylized images of Malecha, along with his advice for new students. The project seemed designed to prove Warhol’s adage that everyone, even a college dean, is entitled to 15 minutes of fame.
A nationally respected architect and designer, Malecha served as president of the American Institute of Architects, the nation’s leading professional organization for licensed architects, in 2009. At his installation, AIA members saluted their new president by donning round, thick-framed eyeglasses — Malecha’s signature eyewear.
Malecha’s influence at NC State will be long remembered, and not just in the College of Design. He designed the university mace and redesigned the chancellor’s ceremonial lavalier, and he served as design architect for the new chancellor’s residence, The Point, ensuring the project’s success at a critical stage. The National Association of Home Builders named The Point’s kitchen “Room of the Year” in its 2012 Best in American Living Awards.
In 2003 Malecha won the top award for teaching in architecture in the United States and Canada, the Topaz Medallion, awarded jointly by the AIA and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. He also won the 2011 F. Carter Williams Gold Medal from the North Carolina chapter of the AIA for career accomplishments spanning five decades.