January 24, 2019 College Bids Farewell to Bob French
Congratulations to Robert C. French, our faculty member, friend and colleague, who retired at the end of 2018.
We call him “Bob.”
There is nothing pretentious about Bob French. One only has to meet him to understand that. He is generous and kind. He served our college for 44 years and taught literally hundreds of young designers how to become better at their chosen craft, but he would be the last to brag about it.
His humility is practically legendary, so it’s no surprise that upon deciding to retire, he asked that the college make no announcement about it. We honored that request, but we simply must acknowledge his contributions to our college and his devotion to his students.
Bob French graduated from the University of Tennessee New School of Architecture, the predecessor to today’s College of Architecture and Design, in 1972. He started working as a part-time designer for an architect named Robert B. Church, who served as dean and endowed a lecture series that is going strong today. Bob also worked as a designer/detailer for McCarty Bullock Church Holsaple Architects and other local firms and became principal designer for his own projects.
In 1974, he stepped back onto the UT campus to become an instructor in our School of Architecture and continued to design professionally. He became a licensed architect in 1978.
Bob worked as a designer on TVA’s office building and as a team leader for the U.S. Army Forcom installation, an energy reduction initiative by TVA.
For more than 40 years, he taught in the college he called “home” and continued his professional practice, working on projects that include private residences and serving as a master planner and designer for the Kingston Project.
One notable project Bob pursued for his students and college is Lone Oaks Farm. For years, Bob worked to align our college with UT’s new and multi-year development in West Tennessee. Because of his and other’s efforts, our students now are part of the project and work alongside two firms chosen by the state of Tennessee to design the multipurpose campus.
Beginning in 2014, Bob and fellow Architecture professor, Jennifer Akerman, led students in the college to design and largely build the acclaimed Beardsley Farm Education Center for Knoxville’s urban farm.
It’s that kind of dedication to students and vision for ensuring meaningful experiences for them that set Bob French apart for 44 years.
During those years, students chose him for awards, including the Tau Sigma Delta Outstanding Faculty Award and the Tau Sigma Delta/Bob Holsaple Outstanding Faculty Award. He served the college on various committees and helped design the School of Architecture’s second-year design program.
But you’d likely never hear him tout these accomplishments.
His enduring and valuable presence in the college is celebrated today, and his physical presence—including the ever-present hat—already is missed.
We thank Bob for his devotion to students, the profession and his alma mater and for his friendship. We wish him all the best in retirement.