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Bernard Deffet, BA ’85 (Architecture)

Liege, Wallonia, Belgium

Architect and Founding Partner, Baumans-Deffet Architecture & Urbanism

Dear future graduates,

Specific life circumstances brought me from Belgium to St. Louis in the mid 1980s. I graduated from WashU in 1985 (BA in Architecture). I then received my master's degree from MIT. Back to WashU in 1999 to receive the young alumni award. What a chance! I live, work, and teach in Liege, Belgium (French speaking).

My message to you would be:
- Be grateful. Graduating from such a fine institution is a real advantage in life.
- You have chosen one of the most beautiful, fantastic, challenging, difficult disciplines (architecture). It will be a lifetime investment, and it will take a while before you take hold of the privilege (and the responsibility) it generates. Do not worry. Architecture is a slow adventure.
- Please, never give up. Build!
- Be careful of the environment, and take good measure of the social impact of your spatial decisions.
- This global world needs to find a new balance. Cultivating multiple local conditions will be your challenge.

Best to all!

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Richard Lorch, BA ’77 (Architecture)

London, United Kingdom

My thoughts are with the graduating class of 2020. You graduate into a world that is recognizably more fragile. The key challenge for you (and all of us) is to not revert to business as usual after the pandemic is over.  Instead, we need your knowledge, curiosity, energy, and perseverance to challenge the status quo and create a new normal that protects life and the planet. You have learned to think and we need fresh thinking and new practices to transform our cities, buildings, and lives.


Kenneth K Y Poon, MArch ’06

Kenneth K Y Poon, MArch ’06

Hong Kong

Chairman, Philia Earth Limited

Dear Class of 2020,

This is a challenging year to graduate as our world faces a global pandemic of COVID-19. As architecture graduates, you have the talents and trainings to imagine and create spaces. The world requires architects who are able to think more creatively in re-imagining spatial environments to meet the paradigm shift of the way people work and live in the 21st Century. Climate change and un-equal development in the built environment require a lot of collaborative efforts to push the boundary of green architecture. In a difficult time like this, ask yourself what you can do to utilize your talents and trainings to create a healthier and greener built environment. I hope in the next decades you will be able to look back and take pride in your contributions to make our world a better place to live.


Kenneth K.Y. Poon
Chairman of Philia Earth Limited

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Sharad Sheth, MArch ’73

Gujarat, India

Good morning, young graduates! I am living and working as an architect-sculptor-educator at Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. Like you all, we are also facing very difficult days. Unlike your country, which is advanced and has a literate and economically stable population, we are far from it, and most of our population are not aware of the grim situation around the world. So please try and understand that you are slightly better off and wait for your glorious rewarding days. The wait will provide you enough time and energy to work  creatively for a better, safer world!