School of Architecture Dean Emeritus Hal Box Dies at 81

May 10, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas — John Harold (Hal) Box, dean emeritus of the School of Architecture, died on May 8 at the age of 81 following a lengthy illness.

Hal Box

Box, who led the School of Architecture from 1976-1992, was recently bestowed with the title of dean emeritus and was honored for his hard work and dedication to the School of Architecture on April 8 at a reception re-naming the Goldsmith Courtyard the "Eden & Hal Box Courtyard."

"It is hard to overstate the significance of this loss to our community," said Fritz Steiner, dean of the School of Architecture. "Hal was an extraordinarily talented architect and scholar, visionary leader, and loving and generous person. His imprint on the school and on Texas will endure."

Born in Commerce, Texas, on Aug. 18, 1929, Box received his early training in architecture at the university, where he graduated at the age of 20 with a five-year degree in architecture. As a student at the university, he served as an apprentice to O’Neil Ford.

Following graduation, Box served in the United States Navy Civil Engineer Corps in aircraft structural design and subsequently served as the project architect for Broad and Nelson Architects of Dallas.

In 1958 he formed the architectural and design firm Pratt, Box and Henderson Architects in Dallas.

Box's career in architectural education began in 1970 when Dallas-Fort Worth was the largest urban area in the United States without an architecture school. He was asked by University of Texas at Arlington administrators to start an architecture school there. He took a leave of absence from his firm and became chairman of the new Department of Architecture. When the new school was approved two years later, he was named its first dean.

In 1976, The University of Texas at Austin offered Box the architecture deanship and he accepted on several conditions. At the time, the school was severely under-funded and required dramatic new initiatives, new facilities, a library specifically for architecture, a larger budget for faculty and staff, and a dean's salary similar to those in engineering and law. All of his conditions were eventually fulfilled, creating an architecture school that became a leader among public universities and one that, in the past several years, has been the only public university to rank in the top 10 in the nation in its graduate and undergraduate programs.

In 1988, Box began to study and document the 16th century open-air churches of Mexico. Each summer through 1994 he led a group of volunteers to Mexico to undertake archival research, photographic documentation and the preparation of measured drawings of open air churches and other civic spaces in the states of Morelos, Mexico, Michoacan and Hidalgo.

Over the years, Box won several design competitions, including national, state and local design awards, and received numerous professional honors.

He was inducted into the College of Fellows, American Institute of Architects in 1971, and received the Llewellyn W. Pitts Award from the Texas Society of Architects in 1998. The Hal Box Endowed Chair in Urbanism was established at the university in 1999 and the Texas Exes Alumni Association bestowed on Box its highest honor, the Distinguished Alumnus Award, in 2003.

Memorial services are planned for Friday, May 13 at 2 p.m. at St. David's Episcopal Church, 301 E. Eighth St. in Austin.

Visit Box's online memorial page.

For more information, contact: Amy Crossette, Office of the President, 512-573-1078.

5 Comments to "School of Architecture Dean Emeritus Hal Box Dies at 81"

1.  Beverly Nelson said on May 10, 2011

Please give my sympathies to Eden and Hal's family. He was a wonderful gift to the world. Beverly

2.  Steven & Cathi House said on May 10, 2011

We are deeply saddened to learn of Hal's recent passing. He was a passionate and caring individual and a very talented architect. As an gifted educator Hal touched the lives of so many aspiring architectural students. He will be dearly missed by his countless friends and colleagues. Our sincerest thoughts and prayers are with his family.

3.  John said on May 12, 2011

Such an inventive and caring artist will be missed yet referenced for lifetimes to come.

4.  Nancy Kwallek said on May 13, 2011

I first met Hal in the late 1980s when the interiors program was in the Department of Human Ecology across campus and my chairman took me to meet and chat with Hal about moving the interiors program to the School of Architecture. I thought it was a marvelous idea but do not believe this is something my department wanted to pursue but I believe pressure was coming from the administration to initiate a visit because alumni and students wanted interiors moved to architecture. It was nearing the end of the semester and into the holiday season and I remember Hal treated us with homemade fruit cake that his mother made and shared that his mother had a degree in my chairman’s discipline. No one could be more gracious and accommodating than Hal on that day—his striking smile and warmth of character are two aspects that have always been the identifiers for me of Hal. We were not successful in moving the program until almost 10 years later under Dean Speck’s leadership. But, from that day forward after first meeting Hal, I always got a big hug and an inquiry of how interiors was being treated in the school. You see, I believe Hal was not a strict modernist—he appreciated interiors and décor and in his quarries of me wanted to make sure interiors was not ‘absorbed nor ignored’ under the strength of an only architecture philosophy—he loved all aspects design—fashion, interiors, and architecture.

When Hal’s mother passed away I was impressed upon reading her long obit as it gave me further insight about Hal’s character. In her 90s it was spelled out that she continued to solely prepare holiday dinners for her family and extended family and they would all go to her home and she feed the entire group—single handedly. This is an affinity I feel I have with Hal because I come from a huge family and my mother did likewise into her 80s.

Sorry for going on so long about these personal interactions with Hal but I will always cherish these interactions with him which tell so much about who he was and of his fine character. I will miss approaching him up the hall and receiving his big hug.

Nancy Kwallek
Director of the Interior Design Program

5.  sima said on May 21, 2011

I want to continue studying architecture scholarship to take. I am a bachelor of architecture from Iran. Please help me on