SMU to Present Honorary Degree to Dallas Preservationist Virginia McAlester

Virginia McAlester’s Dallas roots run deep.

Her ancestors were among Dallas’s first settlers and her father was mayor of Dallas. She was a founder of the Historic Preservation League, now Preservation Dallas, which has helped designate and sustain more than 4,000 local landmarks. It is a model adopted by many cities for historic preservation.

Above Photo: The Preservation of Our Historic Buildings | D Magazine – Elizabeth Lavin

And on May 18, SMU will present an honorary Doctor of Arts to McAlester at 9 a.m. in Moody Coliseum.

McAlester will discuss her lifelong dedication to historic preservation at a May 17 symposium from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in O’Donnell Auditorium in Owen Arts Center, 6100 Hillcrest Ave. National leaders in historic preservation will join her in a panel discussion. The symposium, which is open to the public, will be preceded by a 3 p.m. tea in Owen Arts Center’s Taubman Atrium.

In 1984, McAlester created the advocacy group Friends of Fair Park, which successfully petitioned to protect and preserve the permanent buildings in Fair Park, site of the 1936 Texas Centennial, now home to the State Fair of Texas and a broad range of museums and cultural venues.

Her many awards include receiving the key to Dallas in 2014, an AIA honorary membership, and Friends of Fair Park, Spirit of the Centennial Award in 2017.

She is nationally known for her landmark 1984 book, A Field Guide to American Houses, the standard reference on American residential architecture across all eras and regions, and she has been recognized by the American Library Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation for her scholarship.

Her other books include Great American Houses and their Architectural Styles, A Field Guide to America’s Historic Neighborhoods and Museum Houses: The Western States, and Homes of Park Cities, Dallas: Great American Suburbs.


Mark Lamster is the award-winning architectural critic of the Dallas Morning News and a professor in the architecture school at the University of Texas at Arlington.

John C. Waters pioneered preservation legislation in the state of Georgia, has written preservation plans for numerous cities, was instrumental in establishing several historical foundations and chaired the Georgia National Register Review Board.

Craig Melde is an architect who has dedicated his career to saving and giving Dallas’ historic buildings new life. He is principal and founder of the architectural firm Architexas.

James B. Lindberg is vice president of the Research & Policy Lab at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The lab provides data and solutions for more inclusive, healthy and resilient communities.

Rick Brettell is among the foremost authorities in the world on Impressionism and French painting of the period 1830-1930, the Margaret McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetics Studies and the founding director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History at the University of Texas at Dallas.

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Bianca R. Montes

Bianca Montes is an award-winning journalist and former Managing Editor of Park Cities People. She currently serves as a Senior Editor with D Magazine's D CEO publication. You can reach her by email at Bianca.Montes@Dmagazine or follow her on Instagram @Bianca_TBD. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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