Professor Thomas Spain, M.A. ’70, who joined the School of Architecture in 1966, still remembers taking his—and the school’s—first study trip to Rome in 1999. “For me, it was just an overwhelming experience,” he says. “I had never been to Europe before, and I was like a kid in a candy store.” Since that trip, Spain has returned to Rome many times as a drawing instructor for students in UM’s Rome Program, contributing his artistic talent, teaching skills, and financial support.
Now a member of the school’s senior faculty, Spain is a key donor for the annual School of Architecture Golf Tournament at the Biltmore Golf Course to benefit the Tom Spain Rome Program Endowment, which was established in his honor, and scholarships for the Rome Program. The program has grown through the years and now includes visits to Venice and Florence, Italy.
With his wife, Dona, B.Arch. ’91, M.Arch. ’92, historical resources director for the City of Coral Gables, Spain has helped raise $210,000 for the scholarships, including his and his wife’s personal donations, in the past five years. “The Rome trip is such a terrific experience for our students that I wanted to make sure it continued,” Spain says.
A Virginia native who has enjoyed drawing all his life, Spain came to UM as an instructor 48 years ago. After serving in the military, he earned his master’s degree in painting and became a professor in the School of Architecture, where he has influenced multiple generations of students.
A master visual interpreter of architectural structures and places, Spain was invited to exhibit a collection of his drawings at the Coral Gables Museum in May 2013. The show, Thomas A. Spain: A Retrospective (1980-2012), featured more than 60 drawings in pencil, ink, watercolor, and chalk and included several lectures and drawing workshops for adults and teens. Some of those drawings are now on display at another retrospective of his work at the School of Architecture’s Irvin Korach Gallery.
Recalling his experiences sketching and drawing with students on the streets of Rome, Spain says, “Seeing the architectural treasures of Italy can be a life-changing experience. Through our endowment program, we provide that unique learning opportunity to students who otherwise couldn’t afford to travel. It’s very satisfying to give back to our University.”
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