Blackwell Elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Marlon Blackwell, Distinguished Professor and Fayetteville-based architect, has been elected as a member to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
Photo by Mark Jackson/CHROMA

Marlon Blackwell, Distinguished Professor and Fayetteville-based architect, has been elected as a member to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Marlon Blackwell, a U of A Distinguished Professor and Fayetteville-based architect, has been elected as a member to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences — joining a list that includes such luminaries as Alexander Hamilton, Duke Ellington, Eudora Welty and Albert Einstein.

The election of the 2023 members to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences maintains a commitment to honoring excellence that began more than 240 years ago, according to a release from the academy

Blackwell is Distinguished Professor of architecture and the E. Fay Jones Chair in Architecture in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the U of A, where he has taught since 1992. He is also founder and co-principal of his Fayetteville-based design practice, Marlon Blackwell Architects, and is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. 

“I’d like to congratulate Distinguished Professor Marlon Blackwell on being awarded this prestigious honor,” said Provost Terry Martin. “Becoming a part of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences is an incredible feat. Professor Blackwell joins a highly accomplished and renowned group of individuals who are at the top of their fields and professions. He is an inspiration to his fellow faculty and his students, and we are grateful to professor Blackwell for all he has achieved for the university and in the world of architecture.”

Peter S. Ungar, U of A Distinguished Professor of anthropology and director of the Environmental Dynamics Program, was elected to the American Academy in 2022.

“I’m excited that professor Blackwell will be joining the academy,” Ungar said. “He’s the best of the best in his field and a credit to the U of A.”

Past elected members with Arkansas ties include Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Clinton for their work with the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation; alumna C.D. Wright, a writer and educator; alumnus Morris Sheppard Arnold, former U.S. circuit judge for the Eighth Circuit; and Vernon Eulion Jordan, a lawyer and social and political action organization executive.

“Marlon’s election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences signifies the highest accomplishments in American culture,” said Peter MacKeith, dean of the Fay Jones School. “In this, he joins Arkansans Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as his U of A faculty colleague Peter Ungar. But moreover, he joins the most significant figures in American architecture, visual arts and the sciences. Marlon’s greatest accomplishment, however, is the grace, dignity and humility with which he has achieved so much — and his recognition of all those with whom he has worked and whom he has supported. The school is proud and grateful to our friend.”

When announcing this year’s new members, Academy President David W. Oxtoby said, “With the election of these members, the academy is honoring excellence, innovation and leadership and recognizing a broad array of stellar accomplishments. We hope every new member celebrates this achievement and joins our work advancing the common good.”

The nearly 270 members elected in 2023 are drawn from academia, the arts, industry, policy, research and science, and include more than 40 international honorary members from 23 countries. Among the members elected in 2023 are:

  • Museum director Cynthia Chavez Lamar, The Smithsonian Institution
  • Engineer and university president Reginald DesRoches, Rice University
  • Quantitative cell biologist Amy Gladfelter, Duke University
  • Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, The Nature Conservancy
  • Author and financial journalist Michael Lewis
  • Songwriter, actor, director, producer Lin-Manuel Miranda  
  • Social psychologist James W. Pennebaker, University of Texas at Austin
  • Writer, director, producer Shonda Rhimes, Shondaland
  • Author Zadie Smith
  • Astrophysicist and cosmologist Risa Wechsler, Stanford University
  • Political scientist Daniel Ziblatt, Harvard University

“In its earliest days, the academy sought members who would help address issues and opportunities confronting a young nation,” said Nancy C. Andrews of Boston Children’s Hospital, chair of the Academy’s Board of Directors. “We feel a similar urgency and have elected a class that brings diverse expertise to meet the pressing challenges and possibilities that America and the world face today.”

Other architects and designers previously elected to the American Academy include Jeanne K. Gang, Studio Gang Architects (elected 2017); Francis Kéré, Kéré Architecture (2017, IHM); Toshiko Mori, Toshiko Mori Architect (2016); Michael R. Van Valkenburgh, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. (2011); Guy Nordenson, Guy Nordenson and Associates (2009); Ricardo Scofidio, Diller Scofidio Renfro Architects (2009): Elizabeth Diller, Diller Scofidio Renfro Architects (2008); Thom Mayne, Morphosis (2008); Robert Stern, Robert A.M. Stern Architects LLP (2007); Billie Tsien, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, LLP (2007); Tod Williams, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, LLP (2007); Steven Holl, Steven Holl Architects (2002); and Peter Eisenman, Eisenman Architects (2000).

Blackwell received the 2020 Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects and was named the 2020 Southeastern Conference Professor of the Year. He was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2021, received an Arts and Letters Award in Architecture from the Academy in 2012, was selected as a U.S. Artists Ford Fellow in 2014 and was inducted into the National Academy of Design in 2018. 

Projects from Blackwell’s design practice have been recognized with national and international awards, including 18 national awards from the AIA. The St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Springdale, Arkansas, received the 2011 World Architecture Festival, Best Civic and Community Building, as well as the 2012 AIA National Small Project Award. 

The American Academy’s newest members grouped in the 31 sections, organized within five classes, in which they were elected. The complete list of members elected in 2023 is available online.

Architects and landscape architects joining Blackwell in the Visual Arts section for 2023 include David Adjaye (IHM), Adjaye Associates Ltd.; Walter Hood, Hood Design Studio; and Nader Tehrani, NADAAA.

The new members join a distinguished group of individuals elected to the academy before them, including Benjamin Franklin (elected 1781) and Alexander Hamilton (1791) in the 18th century; Ralph Waldo Emerson (1864), Maria Mitchell (1848) and Charles Darwin (1874) in the 19th century; Albert Einstein (1924), Robert Frost (1931), Margaret Mead (1948), Milton Friedman (1959), Martin Luther King Jr. (1966), Stephen Hawking (1984) and Condoleezza Rice (1997) in the 20th century; and, more recently, Bryan Stevenson (2014), M. Temple Grandin (2016), John Legend (2017), Viet Thanh Nguyen (2018), James Fallows (2019), Joan Baez (2020), Sanjay Gupta (2021) and Heather Cox Richardson (2022).

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences, founded in 1780, is both an honorary society that recognizes and celebrates the excellence of its members and an independent research center convening leaders from across disciplines, professions and perspectives to address significant challenges.

In 1780, the academy’s founders — including John Adams and John Hancock — envisioned an organization that would recognize accomplished individuals and engage them in addressing the greatest challenges facing the young nation. The first members elected to the academy in 1781 included Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.

About the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design: The Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas houses undergraduate professional design programs of architecture, landscape architecture and interior design together with a liberal studies program. The school also offers a Master of Design Studies, with concentrations in health and wellness design, resiliency design, integrated wood design, and retail and hospitality design. The DesignIntelligence 2019 School Rankings Survey listed the school among the most hired from architecture, landscape architecture and interior design schools, ranking 10th, 14th and eighth, respectively, as well as 28th among most admired architecture schools.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research and Economic Development News.


Michelle Parks, director of communications
Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design


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