Crisis! That was the title of the booklet produced by the GSD to kick off its capital campaign in 1968. The subtitle spoke of “The chaos in our cities, the loss of control over our environment, the urgent need for leadership for the future. . .” John L. Loeb, (Harvard College ’24 and member of the Visiting Committee of the GSD) was the chairman of that development program. He saw the American city in decay and disarray. But he believed Harvard could help. He imagined bringing bright, mid-career practitioners to the GSD and other parts of Harvard for a year to “have the run of the place.” John was convinced they would return to their work with new ideas and energy. He foresaw their forming a powerful network of colleagues passionately committed to nothing less than revitalizing the stagnant American city.
So he and his wife Frances endowed the Loeb Fellowships as part of their gift to the “Crisis” campaign. They worked closely with William A. Doebele, the Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design (now Emeritus). Together they designed a Fellowship that would bring emerging leaders in the field to the GSD for independent study, reflection and engagement. Professor Doebele, the founding Curator, guided the program through its first 27 years with a sure hand and wise counsel. He and the Loebs shaped a program that has had a powerful impact on generations of urban and environmental professionals.
Now in its fifth decade, the Loeb Fellowship has offered the resources of Harvard and greater Boston to a diverse group of leaders from 36 states and the District of Columbia. Early in its history, the Fellowship was only for Americans. Recognizing that U.S. designers and planners have much to learn from professionals in other parts of the world, the program has more recently welcomed outstanding practitioners from 15 other nations. Alumni/ae of the Fellowship are now leaders in the public, private and non-profit sectors at every level of important decision-making throughout the nation, and increasingly, the world. In 1988, the Loeb Fellowship received a National Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects “for improving the quality of the built and natural environment through the education of the practitioners who affect that environment.”
The Bruner/Loeb Forum, launched in 2002, is the result of a partnership with the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence. The goal of the Forum is to advance solutions for a wide variety of challenges still facing our cities. In a series of symposia in cities across the country, RBA winners and Loeb Fellows have engaged local practitioners and policy makers in creative problem-solving to improve the places where people live and protect the natural environment.
Since 2001 the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy has collaborated with the Loeb Fellowship and identified a member of the newly selected class to engage at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy as a Lincoln Loeb Fellow. Each spring the Lincoln Loeb Fellow delivers a public lecture based on research he or she has completed during their Fellowship year. This is often developed into an article for publication in Land Lines, the quarterly publication of the Lincoln Institute.