Earlier this week, Rick Willson, FAICP passed. He left his mark on the planning profession as a professor, consultant, author, artist, and lifelong mentor to many in the field.
Willson was well known for his Guide for the Idealist blog series and books that focused both on reflective planning practice, while showing new planning professionals how to navigate their careers. His most recent book was Reflective Planning Practice: Theory, Cases, and Methods (Routledge 2021).
Willson's research has appeared in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, the Journal of the American Planning Association, Transportation, Regional Science and Urban Economics, and others. Prior to his academic career, he was a transportation planner for the City of Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency.
An expert in transit-oriented development and parking policy, he nonetheless taught a wide variety of courses and exercised wide interest in both undergraduate and graduate curricular development. An avid painter with wide-ranging interested, Dr. Willson engaged and mentored a generation of students and colleagues at Cal Poly Pomona.
Dr. Willson received a Bachelor of Environment Studies in Planning from the University of Waterloo, Ontario; a Master of Planning from the University of Southern California; and a PhD in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles. At Cal Poly Pomona, where he served as department chair for many years and interim dean of the Collage of Environmental Design, he was the recipient of the 2015 Provost Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity.
He leaves behind his wife, planner and economic development consultant Robin Scherr, and daughters Jenna and Maya.
A memorial service will be held Sunday, December 11 at Mount Sinai. The service will be live streamed and recorded for guests unable to attend.
In lieu of flowers, Rick's family invites donations to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society; EcoAgriculture Partners; the Center for Reproductive Rights; and JDC.
tributes to Rick
Many in the planning community have been sharing how Willson helped inspire, mentor, and influence their respective planning careers. "It is certainly a sorrowful day for California planning," said APA California President Ashley Atkinson, AICP.
"He was a larger than life presence," said Gwen Urey, professor and current chair of the urban and regional planning program at Cal Poly Pomona. "His enthusiasm for innovating as a teacher along with his zest for engaging students in the theory and practice of planning energized all of us."
A sample of the tributes pouring in online include the following from LinkedIn: