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Retiring Hewitt leaves indelible mark on Twin Cities campus

By Adam Regn Arvidson and Lance Neckar

 

Clinton HewittCampus planner, professor, public servant, and counselor, Clinton Hewitt embodies the respect that underpins the dignity of the University of Minnesota. He has guided planning for the Twin Cities campus with a knowing hand, elevating the campus to a place of beauty, reflection, and recreation. But perhaps, more than his planning position, it is Hewitt himself who has left an indelible mark on our great campus.

 

"Clint Hewitt has been an integral part of the University of Minnesota for more than 30 years," said university services vice president Kathleen O'Brien. She has known Hewitt since the 1970s and has worked with him almost continuously since then. "He really has a passion," O'Brien said, "for understanding how campuses work as places--how they can be designed to increase the success of a university. His legacy is educating a generation of University faculty and staff on the importance of the campus master plan, of making sure we understand the Cass Gilbert and Morell and Nichols design for Northrop Mall and the historic knoll [designed by H. W. S. Cleveland]. We have a beautiful campus because he has helped us understand and appreciate the value of those public spaces."

 

Hewitt, currently an associate professor of landscape architecture, served for three decades as an associate vice president for physical planning and campus master planning. Prior to coming to the University in 1972, he worked at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is considered one of the nation's premier campus planners. As a member, past president, and recipient of the highest honor of the Society of College and University Planning, he has lectured on campus planning across the continent. He teaches other campus planners and managers through the Association of Physical Plant Administrators, a national organization with members in more than 1,500 colleges and universities.

 

Hewitt's favorite campus spot is the historic knoll in Minneapolis. "I once read about [landscape architect] H. W. S. Cleveland's participation in that design," recalled Hewitt. "In a hand-written note, he talked about the importance of the experience of the student on campus, how that will have a bearing on how they treat the environment when they leave."

 

Because Hewitt believes that a campus is about place and people, he has dedicated his career to making life better for the hundreds of thousands who have walked the University's grounds. He has also dedicated his life to service and education in general. He is involved with the University YMCA, the Minneapolis/University Rotary Club, and the Hope Community, Inc., a self-described "model of affordable residential place making" in south Minneapolis whose residents are 70 percent people of color. He currently serves as the co-chair of the latter's board of directors

Hewitt, an African-American, has helped other minority designers achieve success. In 1976, he chaired the American Society of Landscape Architects task force on recruiting minorities to the profession. (At the time, there were only nine African-American landscape architects nationwide that could be identified.) He also helped establish a landscape architecture program at historically black North Carolina A&T University. Hewitt, however, doesn't brag about being the first African-American to accomplish what he has. He measures his own success by the successes, quality of life, and connection to place of others, no matter their background. "I want people to see me as a black man," he said, "then ask themselves what difference that really makes to design."

 

Hewitt guided the 1996 master plan, which embodied the principles for making a livable Twin Cities campus. Recently he served on the Natural Features and Open Space Committee to revise that master plan. His fundamental concern for campus livability helped those associated with the effort to see the campus as a total environment, as a place of many opportunities to recreate the spirit and the mind as well as the body.

 

"I hope that people would remember the love I have for the University of Minnesota campus," he said, "not just the place, but the people." Hewitt's passion and charm are treasured by those he counseled, cajoled, and befriended. His design skill, fairness, and embrace of campus planning and open space will be forever recognized by all who walk the University's facilities--even if they have never met him.

 

Clint Hewitt plans to retire at the end of this academic year. A celebration of his many accomplishments and contributions to the University and community is planned for June 5, 2009.

Please contact Sara Grothe at 612-625-1450 or sgrothe@umn.edu if you would like an invitation to the event.

 

Adam Regn Arvidson, ASLA, is a landscape architect and freelance writer focusing on sustainable design (www.treeline.biz). Lance Neckar, ASLA, is head of the Department of Landscape Architecture.