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Mary Suhm Named Senior Fellow of AAF’s Center for Design & the City



The American Architectural Foundation (AAF) is pleased to announce Mary Suhm, as the Senior Fellow of AAF’s Center for Design & the City. Mary served as City Manager of Dallas, Texas from 2005-2013 and guided the city through a transformative time in its urban renaissance. As AAF Senior Fellow, Mary will help to lead the development and implementation of the new City Managers’ Design Academy as part of AAF’s Civic Design Leadership Initiative.

Mary’s extensive professional portfolio sets an ambitious example for the city managers attending a City Managers’ Design Academy session. During her eight years as city manager, Dallas experienced significant urban redevelopment (particularly in the downtown) and a significant decrease in crime, all while effectively managing a billion dollar budget. Mary played a pivotal role in the development of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, and several libraries and downtown parks (including Main Street Garden, Belo Garden, and Klyde Warren Park), and she was instrumental in the development of Dallas’ Citydesign Studio. As a committed urbanist and community leader, Mary believes that “good design promotes long-term sustainability, which is critical to the quality of life in any city.”

Prior to her appointment as Dallas City Manager, Mary worked in several other municipal positions including Executive Assistant Director of Dallas Police, Director of Courts, Assistant to the Mayor, and Branch Library Manager for the City. Through all of these experiences, her 35 years of employment with the City of Dallas demonstrates her dedication to her city’s betterment and future.

For her many accomplishments, Mary has received numerous accolades and awards from her peers and the community including Public Administrator of the Year by the American Society for Public Administration and Woman of the Year by the Women’s Council of Dallas County. In addition, she was recognized by the Greater Dallas Planning Council’s Urban Design Gala with the Kessler Award for her role in shaping Dallas’ future and her commitment to urban design.

Of her new position at AAF, Mary shared, “Excellent design experience for city managers will benefit everyone. I am pleased and honored to be a part of the development and activation of this program.” AAF is delighted that she will share her expertise and strategies for success to city managers across the United States who are equally committed to developing strong, resilient, and sustainable cities.

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Posted in: Center for Design & the City, City Managers’ Design Academy, News, Print, Uncategorized

The American Architectural Foundation has been dedicated to advancing the role of architecture and design in American society since its founding in 1943 by the American Institute of Architects.

In its 75 years in existence the Foundation’s work has taken many forms — from educational programming and exhibitions in its early years to large-scale design initiatives and programs —all of which serve to create a rich legacy.

As the managing partner of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design for twenty years, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the United States Conference of Mayors, the Foundation helped move the needle on design and cities. And, through its other signature programs like Save America’s Treasures in partnership with National Parks Service, the Sustainable Cities Design Academy, and Design for Learning, the Foundation has provided critical design leadership training and technical assistance to hundreds of elected officials, education leaders, business leaders, and other key decision makers in the design process.

In recent years, cities and civic leaders have embraced design and design thinking in a way that could not have been imagined when the Foundation begin its work back in 1943 — and AAF’s role in this transformation is a source of great pride for the Foundation. With this increased interest in the role of design in shaping our cities came a proliferation of new organizations to support and facilitate this cultural shift. These advances in the role of design in American society and changes in the nonprofit design sector, coupled with the departure of the organization’s longest-serving CEO, prompted the Foundation’s Board to embark on an intensive and lengthy process to examine the ongoing role and work of the Foundation.

As the Board of Regents reflected on the positive changes of the cultural value of design, the accomplishments of the Foundation, and how the legacy of the Foundation’s work is being carried out by its former staff in new roles and organizations across the country, they reached the conclusion that the American Architectural Foundation had accomplished what it set out to do. As a result, the Foundation began to complete its remaining programs and wind down its operations in the Summer of 2018 and the organization’s endowments have been distributed to allied organizations. The Foundation’s research and reports will remain available on its website as a resource to the field.

The Foundation’s work would not have been possible without the incredible talents of its many staff over the decades, the generous support of its funders, and the tireless dedication of its civic & design partners across the country. The Board remains deeply proud of the significant contributions Foundation has made in its 75-year history and would like to acknowledge that this would not have been possible without the efforts, dedication, and support from so many of you.