Remembering Professor Stuart Meck (1947-2018)
M.A. in Historic Preservation lecturer Stuart Meck passed away on April 15, 2018. Stuart was a core faculty member in the MAHP program who regularly taught his course on Urban History. We thank him for his years of dedicated teaching at Goucher College.
M.A. in Historic Preservation (MAHP) lecturer Stuart Meck passed away on April 15, 2018. Stuart was a core faculty member in the MAHP program who regularly taught his course on Urban History, up until two years ago when medical issues intervened. He was also associate research professor and director of the Center for Planning Practice in the Bloustein School at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and was a major figure in the Smart Growth movement. He was also an avid jazz musician. For more information about Stuart’s life and professional achievements, as well as arrangements his family has made for his remembrance, please read his obituary and the “In Memoriam” by the American Planning Association. We thank him for his years of dedicated teaching at Goucher College.
By Kim O’Connell MAHP ’06
Word travels fast in a tight-knit graduate program. Almost as soon as I began the Master of Arts in Historic Preservation program at Goucher back in 2002, I was forewarned by other students about the Urban History class, which was taught by a rigorous professor named Larry Gerckens, a well-known planner and historian. Urban History was then widely considered to be the toughest course in the program, aside from the writing and oral defense of our thesis.
When the inevitable semester arrived for me to take Urban History, however, Larry was transitioning out of the program, and so the class was co-taught by Larry and another urban planner and professor named Stuart Meck (who would thereafter teach the course on his own).
As a longtime city planner and former national president of the American Planning Association, Stu brought his own impressive résumé to Goucher. And yet my classmates and I breathed a short-lived sigh of relief when we learned of his appointment. While we were confident of his credentials, we felt sure that Stu couldn’t possibly be as tough as Larry Gerckens, who required vast memorization of many key dates and developments in planning history to pass his course. We were wrong. Stu still expected a lot out of us, albeit in his own way. In addition to challenging coursework, Stu presented interesting conundrums of urban history, such as the failed Pruitt-Igoe urban development in St. Louis, and pushed us to think deeply about their relevance for the present. History never seemed quite so far away under Stu’s thoughtful guidance.
Although the memory of some other grad-school projects has faded with time, I still distinctly remember the term paper I wrote for that Urban History class, which focused on a bungalow in my town and the changes it had witnessed as the county grew more urbanized around it over a twenty-year period. I called the paper “A Front Porch Kind of Place,” and I loved everything about the research and writing of it. Urban History helped me realize that even big, bustling metropolises are still just a collection of individual places that matter to the people who inhabit them. Stu’s people-first philosophy of planning and urban growth was a lesson that resonated with me then, and it still does today.
As busy, stressed-out graduate students, we think we want our professors to go easy on us, but we really don’t. What we really want are professors who are hard on us, who push us to produce our best work, who make us think and go beyond the obvious answer. Stu Meck did that. He stepped into Larry Gerckens’ formidable shoes at Goucher, but walked a path that was all his own, with his rich insights into people and place-making, gleaned from a remarkable career in planning and preservation. I’m sure I speak for all my classmates when I say that all of us who had the privilege of learning from him are the better for it.