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Buckeye architect makes his mark on campus

George Acock and President Drake stand in front of the university seal.George Acock (left) receives the University Distinguished Service Award from Ohio State President Michael V. Drake, MD, at spring commencement.

While studying architecture at Ohio State in the 1960s, George Acock never dreamed he’d have a significant and lasting impact on its physical landscape. Today, his work can be seen across the university’s Columbus campus, from the renovation of Thompson Library to the creation of the North Residential District.

In May, Acock received a University Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his exceptional service to his alma mater.

“The Ohio State University’s Columbus campus bears the inimitable mark of your creative genius. From Thompson Library to Pomerene Hall, you’ve preserved beauty, transformed function and ensured longevity for several of the university’s most iconic landmarks,” said Ohio State Trustee Clark Kellogg during the award presentation at spring commencement.

The accolade is one of many received by the renowned Columbus architect whose passion for his craft began at a young age.

“My father wanted me to be an engineer. I had a great uncle who was an architect. He had me do all sorts of things. That’s when I knew I wanted to be an architect,” Acock said. “I was about eight years old and I wanted to be one ever since.”

As a teenager researching potential colleges, Acock discovered that Ohio State’s architecture program is housed in the College of Engineering and included classes in engineering and calculus. He hoped that might appease his father, an electrical engineer. “I said, ‘I’ve got it made now.’”

His father came around to the idea. Earning a bachelor’s of architecture at Ohio State proved to be a fortuitous decision for both Acock and the university.

“When I went to college, they had good teachers. And they have good teachers now,” Acock said. “It’s a school that you learn from in a very positive way.”

During his 52 years of practice in Columbus, Acock has designed over $1 billion of construction and has been awarded 22 citations for excellence in commercial and residential design from national, state and local organizations. In 1967, he founded Acock Associates Architects, whose award winning Columbus projects include the North Bank Park & Pavilion, the Columbus College of Art & Design’s Loann Crane Center for Design and the Arena District.

The firm has tackled projects big and small at Ohio State, Acock noted, including designing the Health Sciences Library, Student Academic Services Building, and community center and child care facility at Buckeye Village.

Acock’s mastery of blending the old and the new is on display in the renovated Thompson Library, Pomerene Hall and Sullivant Hall.

“He’s done several major projects on this campus and they’ve all been buildings we all cherish now,” said retired University Architect Bernie Constantino in a tribute video. “They’re significant buildings in the history of the university and he’s made them better.”

Thompson Library with the downtown Columbus skyline in the background.Thompson Library

Arguably Acock Associates Architects’ most important Ohio State project is the renovation and expansion of Thompson Library, which was completed in 2009. His design strengthened the iconic, historic image of the building, while incorporating new, modern elements.

“Everything was dull and dingy,” Acock said. “We wanted it to become alive.”

He transformed what had been an uninviting, underutilized structure into a campus destination with stunning views, and created an 11th floor reading room that features 360-degree vistas of campus and the surrounding city.

Before the renovation, the library received approximately 3,000 visitors a day; it now sees as many as 12,000.

In recognition of his contributions, Acock has also received the Alumni Association Professional Achievement Award, and College of Engineering’s Benjamin G. Lamme Meritorious Achievement Medal and Distinguished Alumni Award. He was elevated to the American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows in 2015.

The 1963 graduate has also been lauded for his tireless dedication to the Knowlton School of Architecture and its students.

“For many years George has elevated the reputation, success and vitality of the Knowlton School by serving as an instructor, philanthropist, program designer and mentor,” said Architecture Section Head Todd Gannon. “He’s been an incredible mentor to generations of Buckeye architects, myself included.”

Believing in the value of broad cultural exchange and real architectural experiences, Acock established the school's Italy Study Abroad Program. He also endowed the George Acock '63 Traveling Scholarship, which provides Knowlton School students with financial support for scholarships and international travel programs.

Ever humble, Acock sums up his decades of support for his alma mater in just a few words.

“I love architecture and I love Ohio State. They gave me the opportunity to do good architecture,” he said. “We always try to do our best.”

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications, clevenger.87@osu.edu