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A Lifetime of

architecture and advocacy robert t. coles

When Robert T. Coles (B.A. ’51, Architecture; B.Arch ’53) was in high school, a teacher discouraged him from pursuing a career in architecture, telling him that “there are no black architects.” But Coles was undeterred. Instead, the young design student resolved to not only become an architect but also to become one of the best. “Mine is an example of a person finding an interest and pursuing it with a passion, regardless of the obstacles put in the way. Although my high school teacher had tried to discourage me, I did not let that deter me. As the only African-American out of 250 students at the University of Minnesota’s School of Architecture back in the early ’50s, I did not let the faculty discourage me from pursuing my goal. A few years later, in 1955, I was the first AfricanAmerican to win the prestigious Rotch Travelling Scholarship awarded by the Boston Society of Architects. That convinced me that I had the talent and the education necessary to succeed as an architect. Despite all the obstacles I encountered during my career, I stayed resolute and never gave up.” You can learn more about Coles’s fascinating story in his recent release Architecture + Advocacy and in our interview at Headshot courtesy of David R. Gordon. Background image courtesy of Robert T. Coles.




Emerging Magazine > Fall 2017  

Stories about alumni, students, and faculty at the University of Minnesota College of Design.

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