By DAVID J. HILL
Published December 8, 2022
For more than a decade, Robert G. Shibley has served as one of UB’s most public-facing deans, steering a city-as-laboratory approach that leverages the creativity and expertise of the School of Architecture and Planning’s students and faculty for numerous projects that have improved Buffalo, the region and beyond.
In a memo to the campus community, it was announced Thursday that Shibley will be stepping down as dean after a very successful 12–year tenure. Shibley will remain in the post until his successor is hired, at which point he will resume his role as SUNY Distinguished Professor in the departments of Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning. He will also continue his work as a senior fellow in the UB Regional Institute, and plans to start up a new center on American urban excellence.
“Dean Shibley is a visionary leader who has made a profound impact on the School of Architecture and Planning,” said President Satish K. Tripathi. “Not only has he helped elevate the prestige and profile of the school, he has harnessed the specialized knowledge and creativity of the school’s students and faculty to contribute to the revivification of Buffalo and Western New York. Through this meaningful service to the community, Dean Shibley has brought our university mission to life, and I am deeply appreciative of his superlative leadership.”
Shibley joined the UB faculty in 1982. He was appointed dean in 2011 and leaves an indelible mark on the school, the university and the city. The school has concurrently lifted up the relevance of the professions it serves while actively working to improve the quality of life in its host city and region.
“An excellent dean and university leader, Dean Shibley has significantly advanced UB’s educational, research and engagement missions, leaving the school well positioned to build on this success for years to come,” Provost A. Scott Weber wrote in the campuswide memo.
Weber said Shibley’s tenure as dean transformed the School of Architecture and Planning, which has nearly tripled its funded research, added new research units and enhanced its reputation and impact, ranking among the top five AAU peers in several key research indicators.
Shibley grew the school’s student population by more than 20% during his tenure, while ladder faculty grew by 30%. New programs were added in affordable housing, real estate development, historic preservation and sustainability leadership, among others.
“The advancements by the school over the last 12 years have been driven by an extraordinary combination of talented and dedicated faculty, staff and students, without whom the school’s ascent simply would not be possible,” Shibley said. “We should all be grateful for the tremendous leadership team, drawn from the school’s pool of talent, for their commitment to and contributions in elevating the disciplines of architecture, urban planning, environmental design and real estate development.”
The school achieved national and international recognition with a number of high-profile projects. Numerous faculty members and several hundred students worked on the GRoW Home, which won second place nationwide in the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon and is now the GRoW Clean Energy Center located next to the Solar Strand on the North Campus.
The school was twice invited to the Time Space Existence exhibition held in conjunction with the Venice Architecture Biennale, the world’s leading architectural exhibition. In 2021, the school showcased its leadership in the multiyear civic planning process that shaped the transformation of LaSalle Park on Buffalo’s waterfront into Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park. In 2018, its first time at the biennale, the school debuted the documentary short “See It Through Buffalo,” which told the story of the school’s work within Buffalo’s varied urban landscapes over the past 50 years.
“Throughout his UB career, Dean Shibley has focused on deepening the school’s connection with the community,” Weber said. “Under his leadership, the school has significantly impacted the region’s built environment and economy, including through its Regional Institute. Dean Shibley has built successful partnerships across UB, encouraging faculty to participate in cross-disciplinary and university-wide initiatives to enhance innovation and impact.”
On campus, Shibley oversaw the comprehensive renovation of historic Hayes Hall, the school’s home on the university’s South Campus and one of UB’s most iconic buildings. The building achieved LEED Gold status and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016. A comprehensive renovation of Crosby Hall, which houses studio and office space for the school, is currently underway and expected to be completed next year.
Shibley has served on numerous university committees, including chairing UB’s COVID-19 Campus Planning Committee, as well as serving on the committees for several university administrative and decanal searches. Prior to his appointment as dean, Shibley led development of UB 2020: The Comprehensive Physical Plan as a senior adviser to the president from 2006-10.
He oversaw the 2011 transition of the UB Regional Institute from the School of Law to the School of Architecture and Planning, and grew UBRI’s annual sponsored program portfolio to nearly $1.5 million per year. He also played a key role in transferring the Center for Urban Studies to the Community Health Equity Research Institute in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to better position it related to community health outcomes.
Shibley is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including the Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture in 2014, a lifetime achievement award from the American Institute of Architects. He has also been named to the College of Fellows of both the American Institute of Architects and the American Planning Association’s American Institute of Certified Planners.
Shibley’s involvement with and knowledge of planning projects in the city of Buffalo have made him a frequent source of perspective and insight for news media both locally and nationally.