Forster Ndubisi 1955–2022

Ndubisi remembered as leading landscape architecture researcher, educator

Forster Ndubisi, widely lauded as a transformative leader in landscape architecture research and education who served as a department head at the Texas A&M College of Architecture from 2004–2016, passed away March 4, 2022, after a lengthy illness.

His survivors include his wife, June Martin, a Texas A&M associate instructional professor of urban planning. Information about funeral services was not immediately available.

“Ndubisi is a permanent icon in the field of landscape architecture,” said Galen Newman, interim head of the Texas A&M Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning.

“He was a pioneer of ecological design and theoretical thinking, an irreplaceable, unique, knowledgeable, deep thinker who was loved by many. He was a wonderful mentor, teacher, colleague, friend — a great man.”

Ndubisi’s numerous awards and honors include his designation as a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects’ Council of Fellows, which recognizes exceptional leadership, knowledge and service in the field for a sustained period of time. Fellowship is one of the highest honors the ASLA bestows on its members.

As a department head, Ndubisi’s leadership and hires transformed LAUP into to the most research-productive department in the college and perhaps the most prolific landscape architecture program in the world, said Shannon Van Zandt, executive associate dean of the Texas A&M College of Architecture.

Ndubisi also served as a departmental professor, who led an ecological planning and design seminar for graduate students, supervised masters’ theses and doctoral dissertation development, and served on graduate student committees.

He was an extraordinarily effective administrator who garnered resources during times of budgetary restrictions and innovated new revenue sources for the department, said Van Zandt.

“He leaves a legacy within landscape architecture of evidence-based design centered around ecological principles,” she said. “He also leaves a legacy at Texas A&M of inspired leadership and extraordinarily effective administration, along with a joyful spirit and sense of humor.”

Ndubisi also helped change many lives through his mentoring.

“He saw an individual’s potential, and through his mentoring, helped them fulfill that potential,” said Newman. “He was a superbly wise person who was always willing to share his wisdom with others.“

“He left a lasting impact on many people,” he said.

Ndubisi also had a far-reaching, lasting legacy in landscape architecture.

“While he was renowned for his ability to decipher and synthesize historical patterns and research findings, Ndubisi also pioneered novel and impactful research agendas,” said Newman.

Ndubisi helped lead the movement to better quantify landscape performance, a measure of how effectively landscape design solutions fulfill their intended purpose and contribute to sustainability.

This concept, said Newman, has significantly advanced the ability of landscape architects to both determine and publicize the positive benefits and impacts of design.

Ndubisi’s published research is required reading in the field, said Newman. “His 2003 book, ‘Ecological Planning: a Historical and Comparative Synthesis,’ has become a staple for all landscape architecture students and faculty interested in the philosophies behind and major contributors to ecological thinking,” he said. “Much of his research is required class reading.”

Ndubisi also edited “The Ecological Design and Planning Reader,” a 2014 collection of scholarly works spanning 150 years, from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden 1854” to an investigation of ecological planning in The Woodlands, Texas.

“The collection provides students, scholars, researchers and practitioners with a solid foundation for understanding the relationship between human systems and the natural environment,” states the book’s publisher, Island Press.

He advocated for a balance of human activity with ecological concerns — place-based ecological urbanism — for a future of sustainable, resilient, and beautiful places in his book “Ecology in Urban Design and Planning: The Evolution of an Idea,” published in 2021.

Ndubisi earned a Ph.D. in Regional Planning & Resource Development at the University of Waterloo in 1987, a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Guelph in 1982 and a Bachelor of Science in Zoology/Ecology at the University of Ibadan in 1977.

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