A century of excellence


From the first in Texas to the largest in the nation with more than 15,000 graduates and 1,900 current students - that, in a nutshell, is the story of the Texas A&M College of Architecture's first 100 years!

More than a century ago, in June 1906, the first graduates of Texas' first formal architectural education program received their degrees from what was then the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, and is today Texas A&M University.

There were three of them - James S. Dean, Max F. Mayer and J. Rodney Tabor - and all three went on to enjoy successful careers as architects.

Thus began a legacy of achievement that over a century grew to encompass all of the built environment disciplines, a cast of truly remarkable educators, and more than 15,000 graduates - architects, landscape architects, builders, planners, preservationists, special effect wizards and scholars - even a celebrated broadcast journalist, an award-winning Hollywood set designer, countless artists and a U.S. Army general.

The list is as endless as the stories are unique, but they all had one thing in common with their predecessors in the Class of 1906 - the integrity, loyalty, leadership, selfless service, respect and a commitment to excellence that is the hallmark of this unique American institution - Texas A&M University.


THE FOUNDATION: Our First 50 Years

On March 27, 1956, the architecture program at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (which would eventually become Texas A&M University) had a birthday party to celebrate its first 50 years. Presiding over the event was Professor Ernest Langford, who had then served as head of the architecture department for 27 years.

From the day he entered Texas A&M as a freshman in 1909, until the day he retired as Professor Emeritus, few individuals have been as closely tied to Texas A&M and the architecture program as it grew and developed in the first half of the 20th Century.

Pausing at that milestone in 1956, Langford had a similar, albeit more modest boast than the one above. In its first 50 years, Texas' first architectural education program had grown from 10 to 317 students; from three graduates in the Class of 1906, to 65 members of the Class of 1956; and in the course of those first five decades, it had awarded a total of 953 degrees.

That total has since grown to more than 15,000!

"A fact worth recording - and one that augers well for the profession and for our social wellbeing," Langford wrote in his 50 year history of the program, "is that scores of graduates have accepted responsibilities beyond the ordinary business of earning a living. Some are members of city councils; others are on planning and zoning commissions, and school boards."

It is refreshing to note that the core values associated with the Aggie tradition were readily evident among architecture students in the first half of the 20th Century. The faculty were then, and are now, in the business of empowering positive change - developing leaders of character with the education, experience and desire to serve the greater good.

Langford knew this, and today the College of Architecture still takes that mission seriously.

Our founder

Of course, a proper review of the A&M architecture program's history should start at the beginning, September 1, 1905, four years before Ernest Langford enrolled for his freshman studies. That was the year seniors James S. Dean, Max F. Mayer and J. Rodney Tabor made a last-minute change to their degree plans.

That change was made possible by the new curriculum in architectural engineering, which was developed and taught by Dr. Frederick E. Giesecke.

A wunderkind of the first magnitude, Giesecke, like Langford and many of the program-s most successful students, was a product of the A&M Corps of Cadets. An excellent student and former captain in the Corps, Giesecke joined the A&M faculty after graduating in 1886 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering.

He was only 17 years old!

Within two years, at age 19, he was appointed head of A&M's Department of Mechanical Drawing. He completed a Mechanical Engineering degree at A&M in 1890, and in the ensuing years, while still on the A&M faculty, he studied architectural drawing at Cornell University and architectural design at Massachusetts Institute of Technology - where he earned a degree in architecture in 1904.

It was upon returning to College Station that Giesecke developed a curriculum in architectural engineering. He served as head of the A&M architecture program until 1912 when he took a job as professor of architecture at the University of Texas. There, until 1920, he engaged primarily in research as head of the Division of Engineering's Bureau of Economic Geology and Technology.

In 1924, Giesecke earned his fourth degree, a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Then, in 1927, he returned to Texas A&M as head of the Department of Architecture and the official college architect. Within a year, he was named head of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station.

He was, without question, the first Aggie architect.

Through 1939, Giesecke designed and supervised the construction of many campus buildings that are still standing today, including the Academic Building, the Chemistry Building, the Williams Building, Cushing Library and Hart and Walton halls.

Giesecke's life was characterized by his desire to learn by study, experimentation and observation. In fact, his daily notebook contained an entry from an experiment he was conducting just two hours before he died of a heart attack on June 27, 1953.

Following in Frederick Giesecke's footsteps, as Aggies and designers who contributed significantly to Texas architecture, were his son-in-law, Preston Geren, Sr., Class of 1912, and his grandson, Preston Geren, Jr., Class of 1945.

Leaders and locations

Between Giesecke and Langford, a number of distinguished scholars and practitioners shared the helm of the fledgling department of architecture at Texas A&M, and each left their own unique signature on its destiny.

  • Fredrick E. Giesecke    1905-12
  • S.J. Fountain    1912-14
  • Rolland Adelsperger    1915-18
  • E.B. LaRoche    1918-1925
  • H.N. June    1925-27
  • Fredrick E. Giesecke    1927-29
  • Ernest Langford    1929-56

When founded in 1905, the architecture classes were held in Drawing Room No. 2 of the original Old Main building. In 1909, Ernest Langford's freshman year, the program was taught in Nagle Hall. In 1914, the Academic Building became home for the architecture program and remained so for the next 49 years.

Texas A&M's construction education program was established in 1946 as a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Construction. It was a five-year, 178-credit-hour option in the Department of Architecture.

Caudill Rowlett Scott

Of course, no history of the first 50 years of architectural education at Texas A&M would be complete without folding Caudill Rowlett Scott into the mix.

Of all of the architectural firms that have influenced the architectural education and research programs at Texas A&M University in the last 100 years - and there have been many - none have had as profound an impact on Aggie architecture as Caudill Rowlett Scott.

Founded in Austin as Caudill Rowlett in 1946 by full-time A&M architecture professors William Wayne Caudill and John Miles Rowlett, the firm moved to College Station in 1947 and began a lasting relationship with the A&M architecture program. In a short time, the firm acquired three new partners - Caudill's former students Wallie E. Scott, Jr., Class of 1943, and William Peña, Class of 1942, who were later joined by Thomas A. Bullock, Class of 1946.

In less than a decade from its inception, CRS had gained national prominence for its pioneering work in educational facility design and innovative approaches to architectural programming.

From the beginning, CRS developed new methods and processes, creating an alternative paradigm for the practice of architecture. Research, much of it performed with faculty and students at Texas A&M, became the "fountainhead of ideas" for the firm and a basis for informing teaching and design in the A&M classrooms.

As professors, Caudill and Rowlett advocated the teaching of practice, an idea countering the popular notion of the time that professors should not be allowed to practice. Further bucking tradition, CRS eagerly published their research findings, making them available to both clients and competitors. Today, many CRS innovations are still commonly practiced and widely taught in the classroom, including: the building type specialist; design by team; problem seeking; squatters' sessions; construction management and fast-track construction.

Despite the pressures of developing a constantly growing practice, the architects of CRS always made time for A&M students, involving them and faculty in research and design projects and participating in studio reviews. Several generations of A&M architecture alumni referred affectionately to CRS as "The Firm." Those talented enough to join its ranks upon completing their degrees knew it as the "best graduate school" around.

In 1959, the firm relocated its headquarters to Houston and continued to expand its practice. In time, CRS became known as one of the largest, most successful firms in the country.

On April 1, 2006, when the College of Architecture kicked off its year long centennial celebration, CRS was recognized for its indelible influence on the college as the "Firm of the Century."

Ernest Langford

Back in 1956, Professor Langford was likely beaming with pride as he stood behind the podium at the 50-year anniversary gala, recounting the progress of the architecture program he had stewarded for 27 years - most of which he had witnessed first hand, since his days as a wet-eared freshman back in 1909.

"The department was a struggling infant in the early days," Langford once recalled. "We graduated only three or four men a year. At the time of my retirement we had more than 300 architecture majors and graduated about 50 a year."

Professor Langford had dedicated himself to inspiring others to their highest achievements. His interest in his students, his understanding of their needs, and his sharing of their aspirations was clearly demonstrated by the successes those students enjoyed.

An editorial appearing in the Bryan-College Station Eagle after Langford's death on Sept. 14, 1981 read:

"Few men who measure their accomplishments against their dreams as life nears its end can be truly satisfied with the final tally. Count Ernest Langford as worthy of that privilege."

"During his lifetime," the editorial concluded, "Langford not only watched as his dream become reality, he worked to insure its success. He brought a dedication and zeal to every task he undertook, and the entire community benefited from it. He was, in a very real sense, the builder of a community and a positive influence on generations of men. That is a legacy worthy of both respect and imitation."

A file ( Icon 16.5 MB)  of Langford’s own history of the first 50 years of architecture at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas is available online.

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