Merkley-Mitchell Mortuary

3655 5th Ave, San Diego, CA


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

Learn more about the Malecha name


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Marvin John Malecha

have a memory or condolence to add?

Abdulah Alali

May 27, 2020

One of my beautiful experiences in the United States. when I was studying Masters degree.He was a respectable and polite man, who helped me and helped all scholarship from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to overcome all the difficulties of studying abroad ... rest in peace our honorable teacher

Rene Peralta

May 27, 2020

Dear Malecha family

Please accept my deepest condolences for the loss of Marvin Malecha. I hope you feel surrounded by much love.

Rene Peralta
NASD class of 1995

Kurt Hunker

May 24, 2020

Dear Cindy and Family,
I have many fond memories of Marvin, beginning with meetings of the NewSchool Board years ago. He always had something interesting and compelling to say, and I especially enjoyed talking architectural design and theory with him--he was so well-versed in those topics.

One day I was asked to come down to school on a Saturday morning to talk with Marvin about the future of the architecture program. I believe he was staying on after a quarterly board meeting and, unknown to me, was considering whether or not to accept the president's position. We had a marvelous, wide-ranging hour-long conversation in which he expressed so much enthusiasm and optimism! Imagine my excitement, then, upon learning that he had accepted the role and would be coming to NewSchool.

Marvin is surely missed. His legacy is deep and unforgettable. I am happy to have known him.

Judith Sheine

May 23, 2020

I have great memories of Marvin going back 30 years, but perhaps I remember him best as an island of sanity and strength in the sometimes crazy world of architecture at Cal Poly Pomona. Marvin was an amazing architect, Dean and even more important, an amazing human being. So many people looked up to Marvin as a leader and he more than lived up to those extraordinarily high expectations. He will be sorely missed.
Cindy - my thoughts are with you and your family at this very sad time.
Best wishes,
Judith Sheine

Lu Liu

May 22, 2020

Dear Cindy,

Marvin had the bold courage to hire me as a department head eight years ago. He never met me before my 45 minutes dinner interview. It was an enormously transforming and inspiring experience working with him. His authentic, deep caring for the students was a monumental lighthouse of design education. When I face challenges in my job today, I often ask myself, what would Marvin do in this situation. Students respected him and loved him dearly. His legacy will stay with the College of Design for generations of students.


Tania Sosiak

May 22, 2020

Dean Malecha was a wonderful person. My fondest memory of him was how her would want to pet my dog who came to class every day with me. She would alway want a belly rub from him and he would comply. He was always so a nice person.

Brooks Cavin

May 22, 2020

Dear Cindy and Family,
At this sad time I remember you and Marvin with joy.

I remember Marvin over fifty years at the University of Minnesota with Ralph Rapson, et. al., Harvard GSD, Hugh Stubbins office, Cal Poly Pomona (beginning with you all sleeping in our living room when you came to check out California), and many classes, student juries, meetings and trips. Through all of these interactions Marvin's leadership, judgement, good humor and wit were wonderful and brought us joy.

I have saved your annual Christmas cards with Marvin's beautiful drawings, and they continue to bring me joy.

My family and I send our best wishes to you in this difficult time,
Brooks Cavin

Richard Green

May 20, 2020

May 20, 2020

I have known Marvin Malecha for almost 50 years as a professional colleague and even more importantly, as a trusted friend.

Over the last 3 months my wife Joan and I called Marv in the ICU almost daily to discuss a number of issues. Joan always started by offering the “stupid joke of the day” and he always laughed. Then he and I would discuss different things ranging from professional issues to humorous events that seemed to follow the two of us and our friends. Hopefully these conversations provided some relief from the more pressing medical issues.

One of the traits I most admired in Marv was his ability for forge bridges between disparate elements of our profession, specifically between practice and education. These connections served him well in his leadership roles in the AIA and ACSA. Marv was an active participant in the Large Firm Roundtable/Deans conferences and one memorable session held at West Point focused on leadership. He and I discussed this conference on several occasions over the years.

Marv made a huge impression on our profession and he left very large footprints for others who will follow. To my trusted long-time colleague, I can only offer a heartfelt Godspeed my Friend.

Richard Green, FAIA
Marblehead, MA

Julia Robinson

May 19, 2020

Marvin always valued his roots at the University of Minnesota, where I studied too, being in a class a few years behind. He was an administrator when I was a young faculty member, and was friendly, kind, and supportive to all- would include us at the table at conferences, would greet us at meetings, etc.. He was also very supportive of women faculty, and I know encouraged me and promoted the work of my classmate Georgia Bizios at NCState.

What I remember most about Marvin was his warmth and graciousness, and maybe a little stubbornness when he thought he was right. Certainly, Marvin was beloved by all!

Thomas Fowler

May 19, 2020

As a young faculty member, starting my teaching career during the mid 90s (I have only known Marvin as a Dean), and also as an administrator (Associate Head) for architecture program, reflecting back I'm not sure I would have had the success at obtaining tenure without the guidance of Marvin's and Bob Greenstreet ACSA Guide to You Faculty. Actually, I followed this publication verbatim in my case for tenure in the early 2000's and when asked how did I develop the structure to made my strong case, I did attribute this to the Young Faculty Guide and still today direct to all young faculty to it. Additionally, when I was a new administrator and given the chance to attend this new administrators workshop - extremely helpful came away with wonderful what I will call Marvin stories that definitely stuck with you for many years (every thing from he called the importance of understanding the "hallway chatter" and also making sure the staff that you you work always have you full and undivided attention - since their contributions are vital to the success of administration. As I continued to be involved with ACSA, NAAB, TSD, Chancellor of the DPACSA, and AIA, I have always enjoyed interactions with Marvin. I know at any event, there was always the mass rush to sit at the table where Marvin's was going to be, since this typically was the table with had the loudest laughter and story telling. And more recently, receiving my Fellowship with the AIA, a year ago in Los Vegas, and having Marvin as a part of the Fellow investiture ceremony and the dinner meant a great deal to me. My wife has a saying from her native County of British Ghana, that when someone passes like Marvin, who will be missed, the phrase is, "Walk Good". Marvin, walk good. You will be missed and many thanks for your guidance. Thomas Fowler, DPACSA, FAIA


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!”

Learn more about the Malecha name