Harvard GSD Establishes Planning, Urban Economics Professorship With Gift from Samuel Plimpton MBA ’77, MArch ’80

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Wendy Shattuck and Samuel Plimpton MBA ’77, MArch ’80 at the 2019 Plimpton-Poorvu Design Prize celebration.

The Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) is pleased to announce the establishment of the Plimpton Professorship of Planning and Urban Economics, made possible by a gift from Samuel Plimpton MBA ’77, MArch ’80 and his wife, Wendy Shattuck. The position will be able to explore a wide range of urban issues and data, including: development, evolving land use patterns and property values, affordability, market and regulatory interactions, open space, consumer behaviors and outcomes, climate change, and will help inform the decisions of future architects and planners.

“Investments in cities and the built environment drive growth in local, regional, national, and global economies. Our students are committed to using design to create opportunities in these urban environments,” said Mohsen Mostafavi, dean and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design. “With this new faculty expertise and support, the GSD presents an ideal environment for planners and designers of the future to investigate best practices in new urban development, overcoming the hurdles that come with building in cities. The GSD is grateful to Sam and Wendy, two of the school’s most loyal advocates and generous donors, for their gift to create this position and keep the school on the leading edge of design education.”

“Using the tools of urban economics research to evaluate and measure the societal impacts of development should inform design and planning decisions,” said Plimpton. “As the world’s top design school, Harvard and the GSD are the best places for exploring these issues and advancing both urban economics and excellence in design. I appreciate all the work that Dean Mostafavi and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design, Diane Davis, have done to set the foundation for this professorship, and I look forward to seeing what scholars in this position will achieve at Harvard.”

For Plimpton, Partner Emeritus and Senior Advisor at the Baupost Group, L.L.C, this gift is the latest chapter in a long partnership with the GSD. In December 2015, Plimpton and Professor William Poorvu MBA’58 established the Plimpton-Poorvu Design Prize, which honors and recognizes students whose work produced at the GSD exemplifies both feasibility and excellence in design. Plimpton received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and worked as an independent advisor, developer, and investor in real estate ventures. He held a research appointment in Real Estate at Harvard Business School from 1978 to 1980, and was an early supporter and a founding member of the Harvard Real Estate Academic Initiative, a cross-faculty initiative from 2002 to 2015.

“Sam Plimpton is a visionary leader helping make the study of urban economics central to contemporary urbanism, and vice versa. We are thrilled that he has shared his aspirations in this regard with GSD,” said Diane E. Davis, Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design. “With a dynamic real estate program already embedded in the school, and with its strong links to urban planning and design, the GSD will be able to move this vision forward in the years to come. I have great expectations about the exciting new research directions and practical applications that we will see as a result of this new faculty position.”