Marvin John Malecha

June 26, 1949May 4, 2020

The obituary of Marvin John Malecha, FAIA, DPACSA can be like no other because of course, “Marvin was Marvin”. Everything in life was a design problem starting with himself. The black Corbu glasses, black Italian suits, black shirt and tie and maybe, just maybe, a red or yellow tie for a special occasion! Let’s not forget the shoes.

I think Marvin best described himself in a “illustrated interview” with WALTER magazine as he was “retiring” from 21 years as dean of the College of Design at NC State University to become the president and chief academic officer at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design in San Diego. Of course, it seemed fitting that the interview with WALTER had to be a design visionary sketch to his responses.

Marvin’s last conversation with his good friend Walt Teague leaves us with what I think Marvin would write at this difficult time.

“I have decided what I’m going to do next. I am going to do watercolors in Tuscany”. He had such certainty in his tone. He spoke of his drawing and sketching past, but he was now excited to “stretch” himself with learning watercolors with his drawings. He was looking forward to this re-making himself and his art.”

Marvin and Cindy’s plans were being made for new experiences, new adventures, new freedoms that were always to be enriched by the pleasure of good company, great wine, the pleasure of the art and architecture to be experienced: embracing life, anticipating a celebration of 50 years of marriage.

Marvin was a brilliant conversationalist with passion, optimism and an infectious laugh. He considered his life a calling; a devotion. Marvin cherished the relationships with friends and colleagues around the world. He shared his passion for education, he mentored, he encouraged, he consoled, he cared. His greatest joy in life was his family: Cindy, his wife, who was the love of his life; Peter, his very creative son; “little architect”, daughter Michelle; granddaughter Chloe.

The words that he spoke at his inaugural as 85th president of the American Institute of Architects epitomize Marvin:

“There is joy in what we do. It is up to us to match our opportunities with hard work. But, let us also remember, with humility and a sense of responsibility that it is not for ourselves that we undertake this endeavor, it is for Chloe. I promise you, and her my very best effort. I owe it to my father’s dream”

Marvin often reflected on the influence of his father who dreamed of being an architect but was thwarted in his dream by the Great Depression. His father still approached the challenges of his life with “the heart of a designer” and a dedication to hard work. His father would have been proud of his many, many accomplishments, his life well-lived.

What will you do with your Marvin stories and experiences? How will you carry on the “design thinking” lessons of Marvin? The legacy of Marvin J. Malecha is now entrusted to all of us.

Marvin John Malecha, FAIA

AIA-ACSA Topaz Medallion, Distinguished Professor of Collegiate Schools of Architecture

friend, teacher, colleague, mentor, brother, uncle, husband, father, and grandpa lion.



  • Cindy Malecha, Wife
  • Peter Malecha, Son
  • Michelle Malecha, Daughter
  • Chloe Malecha, Granddaughter


  • NC State College of Design Celebration of Life

    Tuesday, December 8, 2020



Marvin John Malecha

have a memory or condolence to add?

Cindy Malecha

May 10, 2021

We must live each day with the passion of our inner being recognizing our self; confront our daemons ; creating memories, breathing the air around us.
......step by step......breath by breath (written by Marvin)

When I close my eyes, I see a brilliant conversationalist with passion, an infectious laugh and a twinkle in his eye.

Marvin you have touched us all and will live on forever in our hearts.

David Volz

May 6, 2021

I will always remember Marvin and I getting photos done before our Senior Prom with our dates! We both had the most ill fitting Tuxedos imaginable! My pants and coat were way too short and his were way too long! My mother was laughing hysterically although trying not to!

David Volz

March 4, 2021

Donald Rodewald and I were discussing Marvin's today 3/4/2021 and how we would have liked to spend time with him once again. This poem sums up I think what many of us might feel now that he is no longer with us.
A rose without is perfume, a child who does not play, a song that tells no happiness, A Spring without it's May, A hope without fulfilment, a sky without it blue,
So were each hour that passes by, without it thoughts of you.
Fr. Albert John Volz -Dominican Missionary 1919.
Deepest condolences to Cindy, Peter, Michelle and Chloe.
David J. Volz Bethlehem Academy 1967

David Volz

March 4, 2021

It is with great sadness that I type this memory. I and Donald "Butch " Rodewald were close friends of Marvin's in Highschool at Bethlehem Academy in Faribault , MN. Marv either carpooled or drove his Chevrolet Corsair to school each day from Lonsdale. We called it the .09 as the hot car of the day was a Chevrolet 409. I worked in the family Mobil Station on my visits to Marv's home and helped with pumping gas, oil changes and the towing service his father ran. Who could ever forget the Fireman's Polka Dances at Herman's Bar in Lonsdale as a 14 year old you could get a glass of beer and be swept off your feet by ladies young and old all night when you had no idea how to dance the Polka. Marvin always was more mature than I and matched his intelligence with hard work. My mother always told me I should be more like him. I will leave a short poem in another memory written by one of my ancestors. it sums up my feelings of his passing.

Brendan Rodgers

December 10, 2020

I had the privilege of working as a TA w/Marvin in his Design Thinking course during my graduate studies at the school of design. I learned so much about the mentality and process needed to become a designer, with which I am ever grateful.
However, my strongest memory of Marvin was quite personal. I was in the start of my 3rd semester of graduate work when I found out my father had a massive heart attack. I was devastated, and had to quickly rush back to assist my family. Needless to say, I missed a lot of my responsibilities with the assisting in the course. Upon my return- I spoke to Marvin to explain my absence. I will never forget what he said, "Brendan, it's ok --be with your family, there is nothing more important than the gift of your family." True character reveals it's self in dark times.
Now, as a father of 3 children, those words ring ever true.
To the family of Marvin, my deepest condolences. Your husband/father/grandfather not only encompassed what it meant to be a great designer/teacher/mentor, but what it meant to be be a compassionate human. Godspeed & Rest In Peace.


Craig Dykers

December 8, 2020

There is my wonderful memory of accidentally meeting a stranger, Marvin, at the waterfront harbor in Chania, Crete about 20 years ago.

His character was filled with brightness and delight, intrigue and passion and he made an immediate impact, building a fire in my architectural energy that still burns. What a happy accident. So many years later he still carries the sparkle of the divine heart. How many times I have met people who simply and openly loved him for all he gave to us. I hope I can be the same kind of person as he!

Ronald Eaves

October 10, 2020

I first met Marvin in 1983 when I became associate dean of the College of Business Administration at Cal Poly, Pomona. We quickly became friends as well as colleagues. In 1986 when I became dean of the college he was one of the administrators with whom I was able to quickly build a close and supportive relationship. Our monthly deans informal late afternoon wine & cheese events at Kellogg West were among the greatest learning experiences I've had.

He was truly an inspiring academic leader. I am blessed to have had him as my friend and colleague. I will truly miss him.

With Sincerest Affection,

Ronald W. Eaves
Dean, College of Business Administration (1986-1997)

Helene Dreiling

September 29, 2020

Recalling, with fondness and admiration, the talent AND intellect of Marvin J. Malecha, FAIA. He sketched my 'Aspen Analogy' on a notepad after our conversation about it ... I treasure both the talk and the drawing! Marvin's influence on our profession is immense and enduring!

Anna Gabriele

September 12, 2020

Dear Malecha Family,

My sincere condolence to your family for the passing of Marvin Malecha. As a female considering entering the design profession later in life, I requested an appointment with President Malecha at the NewSchool of Architecture & Design, and will never forget how respectful and considerate President Malecha was to agree to the meeting. I remember thinking at that time (before, during, and after the meeting), if I ever become someone of professional status and value within the community as President Malecha, that I hope to return such kindness (and mentorship) to treat people of lower status and not much to offer back in comparison, if I may, with similar courteous basic dignity and value.

Rest in peace, President Malecha.


Anna Gabriele

Babette Mayor

September 2, 2020

Dear Malecha Family,
Please except my deepest condolences. I first met Marvin at Cal Poly Pomona when I was a junior faculty member in the Art Department. He was a true visionary when he brought our department into the College of Environmental Design. I remember him being a kind, creative and generous person. His thoughtfulness meant a lot to me.
Babette Mayor


NewSchool of Architecture and Design Commencement


Marvin celebrating the opening of NC State's College of Design's Prague Institute with his two sisters, Jean (left) and Barbara (right)


A Czechia Christmas Family vacation to track down our Malecha roots.


A Czechia Christmas Family vacation turns into a road side snowball fight.


A Czechia Christmas Family vacation turns into a road side snowball fight


A Czechia Christmas Family vacation to track down our Malecha roots.Chrissy (Peter's girlfriend), Peter (son), Michelle (daughter), Chloe (granddaughter), Cindy (wife), and Marvin


A Czechia Christmas Family vacation pit stop for Pivo.


Malecha Thanksgiving in France and a tour of Versailles


Merry Christmas from the Malechas


“Our Last Conversation”
Memories with my good friend Marvin John Malecha
By Walt Teague

Our world has truly lost a great one - great as a husband, father, grandfather, brother, architect, artist, educator, mentor and friend - this list could go on. Marvin was loved and admired because he attained greatness in all of these ways throughout his lifetime.

Marvin had a saying, “always remember, the main thing is the main thing”. In his life his main thing was not to achieve greatness for himself. It was to help others achieve greatness in themselves. This kind of open giving spirit offered to others defines a great person. This too defines Marvin. This was his “calling”.

Another “main thing” was his family. His parents were a primary motivation for him earlier in life. This source of inspiration grew to include Cindy, the love of his life, his son Peter, daughter Michelle, and granddaughter Chloe. They were always his source of love, pride and devotion.

Marvin’s passion for good design was for all to have the benefit of a full life - a creative life. It was his selfless lifelong commitment to promote these ideals, to teach others of this way of thinking and to instill this passion in others - practitioners, colleagues, students, family, and friends – for them to achieve a better life and a better world for all.

“Design Thinking” was a way of thinking that Marvin practiced, taught, encouraged and even challenged for anyone to be spiritually consciousness beyond mere awareness to yield the benefits, richness and righteousness of good design in everything around us and all we do.

Throughout the weeks of waiting for his heart transplant we had regular telephone conversations. Our last conversation was very emotional for us both, of course at the time we did not know it would be the last. In this phone conversation Marvin expressed the love and appreciation for our friendship and the close contact Patti and I had maintained through his and Cindy’s “odyssey”. It was our honor - the pleasure was ours. He also spoke of his love and appreciation for the hope, support and prayers he had received from so many others. As we conversed Marvin began sharing about his career. It slowly evolved into something I did not expect - as I listened it occurred to me that he was, in essence, delivering what I can now say was his own eulogy.

He began talking of his humble beginnings - we often had talked of this in the past. Marvin grew up in Minnesota with his hard-working Father running an auto service station in their small mid-western town. His grandparents were immigrants of what is now the Czech Republic. This Czech ancestry is the source of his proud ethnic heritage. We were fortunate to visit his “homeland” including the NCSU Prague Institute (which he founded while Dean at NCSU) with he, Cindy and other friends, “The Prague 16”, in our 2015 visit to Prague and the surrounding towns and countryside.

The conversation “fast forwarded” to his inspiration to study architecture. For Marvin this became his “calling”. It was a passion for his father that was never fulfilled due to the Great Depression. He was introduced to the work of architect Ralph Rapson who he admired and was fortunate to study with during his undergraduate work at the University of Minnesota. He excelled and continued this shared passion with his father by pursuing his Master of Architecture degree at Harvard University. Upon graduation he began working in nearby Cambridge with the office of Hugh Stubbins & Associates, becoming one of the lead designers in that office.

He continued to explain how his career as a young architect transitioned to working in California and realization of a companion passion and “calling” to teach and mentor architecture students at California Polytechnical University - Pomona. When the position of Dean became available, he stepped into this leadership role. He was challenged for “being too young and inexperienced as an administrator for such a position to be an effective Dean”. Marvin proved them wrong as his natural leadership qualities emerged and in the 14 years, from 1982 until 1994, he led the College of Environmental Design to academic ascension and financial growth into a strong program.

Marvin then shared how in 1994 he pursued the position of Dean of the College of Design at North Carolina State University. The College showed promise for more greatness by its reputation, but with a need to reposition its prominence academically, to financially stabilize and to restore its relationship with practitioners and alumni. Marvin was named Dean and for 21 years he led the College of Design to even greater excellence. We spoke of how unprecedented it was for a Dean to “survive” such a long tenure. I affirmed that this longevity as Dean was evidence of the respect he held among faculty, staff and students. He completed that tenure leaving a College of Design that was sound financially, internationally respected and academically successful with expanded schools and programs.

We talked about a particularly special achievement which was re-establishing the relationship of the College of Design with the practitioners and especially with the architectural community. As a practicing architect I could attest to this. He consistently placed himself into roles serving the profession throughout these years. Marvin was even elected by his architect peers to serve as the National President of the American Institute of Architects, an accomplishment akin to winning a national championship when compared to athletics. And as I attested, our profession was fortunate he assumed the position as President as the Great Recession hit. No doubt his leadership and administrative experience, along with his superb people skills, was responsible for our profession navigating through one of our industry’s most challenging times. He was the right person at the right place at the right time, I shared with him, as I had on other occasions.

Upon completion of his 21 years as Dean and “retirement” from NCSU, he did not really retire. One could not imagine Marvin Malecha as “retired”. He seized an opportunity to move to San Diego near family and assume the position as President of NewSchool of Architecture & Design. Our conversation revealed how once again as their President he also led a that school through a relatively short 5 years of rebuilding academically and financially into a more successful school.

And then this happened. Marvin needed a heart transplant. Marvin faced this as yet another temporary obstacle to overcome, another challenge to conquer. His optimism prevailed as we delighted in plans to visit in San Diego when this was over. We even made plans for a “retirement” cruise on the Baltic Sea through Scandinavia. Marvin was making plans for more “living”. I was always amazed by Marvin’s positive spirit and courage to head straight into whatever the challenge - to not just overcome, but to excel. This would be no different. He inspired so many with that contagious aspirational nature.

It was at this point, as I listened to his sharing of these life experiences, that it occurred to me that this was almost like he was sharing his own eulogy, a thought I immediately dismissed. I would not think of our delightful visits in this manner. This was NOT to be the end of his story. Now, as I look back on this phone visit, I realize that we were blessed to hear him tell his story, and what a story it is.

This continuum of life told in one conversation highlights how extraordinary Marvin’s life and career had been and the immense positive impact he made on everyone and everywhere he associated. It revealed that from the beginning Marvin had remained true to his “calling” for life. At every place of his life he assumed a role to take on extremely difficult challenges and improve, stabilize, enrich, renew and invigorate. It was a common repetitive pattern for Marvin’s life: to accept immense challenges, to engage completely, to find the problems, to “design” solutions, to rebuild and to renew for success...and then repeat again in every phase of life. By our conversations, especially this last, I could see laid out this legacy which is Marvin Malecha.

Marvin was a multi-dimensional individual. He was an exceptionally talented architect, artist, designer and speaker. For the duration of his career he practiced in all aspects of design - master planning, architectural design projects, design juries and designing objects and honors for others such as the Wing on Wings Medal at NCSU. As a Dean he continued teaching. He found great joy in teaching his Design Thinking class to first year College of Design students. This was much of what defined him - as a Dean, educator and practicing architect, he “practiced what he preached”.

Sketching and drawing was his meditative means of bringing to paper and mind a depth of understanding and to “see”. It was a way of always elevating himself. He shared that his “next thing” was to stretch himself beyond sketching into doing watercolors. Hence, his convincing self-proclamation that he was going to recover “to do watercolors and T’ai Chi in Tuscany”. One can see that – a well-deserved “prize” for a life squeezing out all passionate pursuits!

Marvin’s extemporaneous eloquence with words was almost poetic. He could take a podium or stage and draw in his audience by his ability to command “the moment”. This was matched by his ability to laugh. He loved a good laugh. His laugh was as full and expressive as the eloquence of his words.

His friendships and bonds were formed not only in words expressed and conversations, but simply by “being” with him. One always came away feeling they were made better, thinking clearer and more inspired by that time spent with him.

Words will never sufficiently and fully convey who Marvin J. Malecha was and what he meant to everyone who knew him throughout his life. His family photos in his online tribute remind us of the old cliché, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. In these photos you see how true this is.
One sees a genuine person whose soul is exposed by the expressions on his face, by his smile, by the gleam in his eyes, and by his focus on his family, companions, and students. All of this defines how he touched others and has left his everlasting mark at the places he served and in all of our hearts.

Marvin always began events with a toast:

“Here’s to Good Design!”

This story ends as he always began:

“Here’s to Good Design
and a life fully lived!
Here’s to Marvin J. Malecha!”