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Lloyd Rodwin dies at 80

Professor Lloyd Rodwin
Professor Lloyd Rodwin

Lloyd Rodwin, 80, the Ford International Professor Emeritus of Urban Studies and co-founder of the MIT-Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies, died December 7 at Massachusetts General Hospital of congestive heart failure.

Professor Rodwin began his career when the field was dominated by architects and emerged as one of the leaders of the urban planning profession, as it developed an intellectual base in the social sciences and humanities. He was renowned for his analyses of urban and regional problems in developing countries, which influenced development projects in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Professor Bernard Frieden, a former student of Professor Rod-win's and one of his successors as director of the Joint Center for Urban Studies, said, "Lloyd really changed the field from city planning to urban studies. He emphasized research on how cities work, and he worked with people outside of planning like [Sen. Daniel Patrick] Moynihan, James Q. Wilson, Oscar Handlin, Alan Altshuler and Martin Meyerson. Lloyd made the field much broader and extended it to the Third World."

Rodwin "was hugely influential," Sen. Moynihan told the New York Times. "He redefined the study of cities, defined them in terms of the people who lived there rather than the buildings in which they lived. He was a great teacher of professors. He broke the iron hold of urban studies," as it had been defined, in terms of "laying out a grand city, or a grand suburb."

Born in September 14, 1919 in Brooklyn, NY, the son of an immigrant baker from Poland, Rodwin dedicated himself to improving life for the underprivileged. He attended City College of New York (CCNY), where he studied with and was deeply influenced by philosopher Morris Raphael Cohen. At CCNY, he was also inspired by the writings of philosopher George Santayana and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.

He wanted to be a high school teacher, but he failed the civil service exam by following the style of his favorite author, Laurence Stern, using dashes rather than periods. He was therefore disqualified, even though he otherwise received the highest possible grade. Not sure what to do, he signed up for a $10 course on housing with Charles Abrams, a noted urbanist and New York Commissioner on Housing, at the New School for Social Research. He became Abrams's research assistant.

Later he worked in the US Defense Housing Program in Washington, DC. There he met his future wife, Nadine Posniak, who introduced him to a world of European culture and ideas.

Professor Rodwin's work in Washington was interrupted when he was drafted. After an early discharge due to poor eyesight, he joined his future wife at the University of Wisconsin and earned the MA in land economics. Soon thereafter he became a Littauer Fellow at Harvard University, where he completed the PhD there in regional planning, in 1949.

Professor Rodwin led an interdisciplinary team from the MIT-Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies (which he co-founded with Martin Meyerson in 1959) in organizing one of the most extensive efforts to design a new city -- Ciudad Guayana -- in southeastern Venezuela. The combined efforts of economists, anthropologists, sociologists and other social scientists, as well as land-use planners, became a model for a new kind of integrated planning. He wrote a book on the project, Planning Urban Growth and Regional Development (MIT Press, 1969).

Professor Rodwin founded and directed from 1967-89 the Special Program for Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS), a program that has brought more than 400 mid-career professionals to MIT from developing nations on four continents. He took the lead, along with Senior Lecturer Emeritus Melvin King, in establishing the MIT Community Fellows Program for black and other minority community leaders to study at MIT.

Professor Rodwin's view that social science should complement physical planning helped to change planning education in the United States. While he was chair of DUSP from 1969-73, he oversaw a tripling of the faculty. He transformed the department by introducing new social science faculty and course work, as well as a focus on international comparative studies, housing policy, environmental policy and economic development. The program served as a model for others around the world.

His experience as an advisor to the United Nations and other international organizations, as well as to the governments of several developing nations, led Professor Rodwin to write Nations and Cities, a comparative study of the role of government in devising and implementing urban and regional growth strategies.

Professor Rodwin was the author or editor of 11 books, including a forthcoming edited volume (with Bishwapriya Sanyal, head of DUSP), The Profession of City Planning: Changes, Images and Challenges, 1950-2000. He trained generations of planners around the world; his former students have assumed significant leadership and teaching positions throughout the world and extended and deepened his influence.

In addition to his wife, Nadine Posniak Rodwin of Cambridge, Professor Rodwin is survived by two sons, Professor Victor George Rodwin of New York University and Professor Marc Andre Rodwin of Indiana University; a daughter, Julie Anne Rodwin, a consultant in Groton, MA; a brother, Ted Rosenbaum; a sister Claire Levy of Laguna Hills, CA; and six grandchildren.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 15, 1999.

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