Monday, September 27, 2010

A Celebration of David Dillon's Life and Work

by Stephen Sharpe, Hon. TSA

On Sunday, Sept. 26, about 200 friends gathered at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas to commemorate the life and work of the late David Dillon. They came together to share their remembrances of David with each other and with his family. The former architecture critic for the Dallas Morning News died suddenly of heart failure on June 3 at his home in Amherst, Mass.

Born in 1941 in Fitchburg, Mass., David came to Dallas in 1969 as an assistant professor of English at SMU, but found his life's calling several years later when he turned his attention to architecture criticism. He first wrote for D Magazine before being hired by the Morning News. In his more than 25 years on the newspaper's staff, David earned the respect and affection of many architects in Dallas and far beyond.

Welcomed by Dillon's long-time friend Max Levy, FAIA, the attendees at the Nasher heard remembrances and eulogies from 11 speakers. On the front row were Sally Dillon, David's wife of 39 years, and their two children, Christopher and Catherine.

Recollections ranged the gamut of David's life, from his passionate following of professional hockey and baseball (particularly his beloved Bruins and Red Sox) to his stealth mentoring of a younger generation of journalists. Throughout the afternoon's reminiscences, the audience learned about David's enthusiasm for enduring friendships, his connoisseurship of fine food and wines, as well as his keen interest in explaining the importance of good architecture and urban design. Far from being overly sentimental, the event was a true celebration that mixed humorous anecdotes and stories that revealed David's sincerity and his disdain for anything false.

The speakers at the Celebration of Life included friends from the Dallas architectural community (Rand Elliott, FAIA; John Mullen, FAIA; Kevin Sloan, ASLA; and Frank Welch, FAIA) and colleagues from the Morning News (fellow arts critic Scott Cantrell; the newspaper's top editor, Bob Mung; entertainment columnist Michael Granberry; and Chris Vognar, another entertainment columnist). Other speakers were Steve Daniels, a colleague from David's days at SMU's English Department, and Allen Mondell, a fellow runner who frequently joined David on jogs through local parks.

I was particularly impressed by the eloquence of Jed Morse, the curator of the Nasher, who spoke without notes about David's being the "go to" guy whenever a program about architecture was being planned at the museum, and who elicited laughter with his comment about his relief to learn that the Nasher was one of the newer buildings in Dallas that David actually admired. Most memorable was the picture Morse sketched in words of David and Ray Nasher standing in the museum's garden and looking back at the building framed by the Dallas skyline.

Max Levy ended the program by reading an e-mail from Blair Kamin, the architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune, who expressed his sentiments about the loss of an honest voice who helped the public understand and appreciate their communities.

In honor of his architectural legacy, the Dallas Architecture Forum and AIA Dallas have established the David Dillon Memorial Scholarship. The initial scholarship will be given to an outstanding architecture graduate student at the University of Texas at Arlington. Additional donations are being accepted to permanently endow the scholarship and expand it to a national level. For more information, contact Nate Eudaly at the Dallas Architectural Forum at 1909 Woodall Rodgers Freeway, Suite 100, Dallas, Texas, 75201.

These photos of the memorial service were taken by Mark Gunderson, AIA.

No comments: