Samuel Ratensky Memorial Lecture: Shaun Donovan

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The annual Ratensky Lecture was initiated by the AIANY Housing Committee in honor of Samuel Ratensky (1910-1972), an architect and NYC housing official who was responsible for major housing initiatives in the city from 1946 to 1972, and who served as a mentor to many architects who worked in his programs. The lecture series honors individuals who, like Samuel Ratensky, have made significant lifetime contribution to the advancement of housing and community design.

This year, the AIANY Housing Committee will be honoring Shaun Donovan as he discusses his career in architecture, housing and public service with Michael Kimmelman

Shaun Donovan served in President Obama’s Cabinet for his full eight years in office. From January, 2009 to July, 2014, Shaun was the 15th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he led the fight against the nation’s unprecedented foreclosure crisis. Under his leadership, HUD helped families rent or buy affordable homes, revitalized distressed communities, fought discrimination and dramatically reduced homelessness. After Hurricane Sandy hit his home town, President Obama asked him to lead the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, leaving a stronger, more resilient region than before the storm hit.

In July, 2014, he was sworn in as the 40th Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. At OMB, Shaun increased investment in key domestic and national security priorities that grew the economy, protected our country and increased opportunity. And he oversaw regulations that reduced inequality, expanded health care, improved education and fought climate change. While OMB Director, Shaun played a pivotal role in managing the nation's response to the Ebola and Zika outbreaks.

Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Donovan served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. He also served in the Clinton administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multi-family Housing at HUD and as acting FHA Commissioner.

Deeply affected by the crisis he saw around him growing up, he volunteered in a homeless shelter during college and interned for the National Coalition for the Homeless when he graduated. After studying housing in graduate school, he returned to work for the nonprofit Community Preservation Corporation in the Bronx and across New York City.

Donovan holds a B.A. and Masters degrees in Public Administration and Architecture from Harvard University. Shaun was born and grew up in New York City, and is married to Liza Gilbert, a Landscape Architect who has designed and restored parks in New York City and across the country. Shaun and Liza live in Brooklyn, where they raised their sons Milo and Lucas. 

Michael Kimmelman is the architecture critic of The New York Times. His work has often focused on urban affairs, public space, infrastructure and social equity as well as on new buildings and designs. He was the paper’s chief art critic; and, based in Berlin, created the Abroad column, covering cultural and political affairs across Europe and the Middle East.

Introductions will be provided by Dr. Judith Rodin.

Judith Rodin is a pioneer, innovator, change-maker and global thought-leader. For over two decades, Rodin led and transformed two global institutions: The Rockefeller Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania.

A ground-breaking executive throughout her career, Dr. Rodin was the first woman named to permanently lead an Ivy League Institution and was the first woman to serve as The Rockefeller Foundation’s president. A research psychologist by training, she was one of the pioneers of the behavioral medicine and health psychology movements. Dr. Rodin’s leadership ushered The Rockefeller Foundation into a new era of strategic philanthropy that emphasized partnerships with business, government, and the philanthropic community to address and solve for the complex challenges of the 21st century. Rodin championed two new fields that are now pervasive: resilience and impact investing. At Penn, Dr. Rodin presided over an unprecedented decade of growth and progress that transformed the institution, its campus, and the community, taking the university from sixteenth to fourth in U.S. News and World Report national rankings. The University also engineered a comprehensive, internationally acclaimed neighborhood revitalization program in West Philadelphia.

Rodin serves as a member of the board for several leading corporations and many non-profits. She has authored more than 200 academic articles and chapters, and has written or co-written 15 books, including her two most recent, The Power of Impact Investing: Putting Markets to Work for Profit and Global Good and The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong. Her next book will be released by Wharton School Press in early 2021.