Professor Reginald Malcolmson.Photo: Courtesy of the University of Michigan

Reginald F. Malcolmson (1912-1992): Dean of Michigan University

Jonathan Smyth's Times Past column takes a look at Reginald F. Malcolmson (1912-1992) a university dean...

In 1964, Reginald F. Malcolmson was appointed Dean of the University of Michigan, a post he held for a decade. Malcolmson had a Cavan connection through his father who was born in the county.

According to the birth notices in the Cavan Weekly News, Reginald’s father, Thomas Robert Malcolmson Jnr, was born at Corglass House, in the parish of Annagelliffe, Co Cavan on December 1, 1877. He was the son of a draper, Thomas Robert Snr (formerly of Irvinestown, Co Fermanagh) and Sarah Jane Malcolmson who was the eldest daughter of Martin Beattie of Corglass House. Thomas and Sarah Jane had married in Cavan Parish Church on February 13, 1877.

The registrar on the birth certificate for Thomas Jnr happened to be a William Malcolmson and we may surmise as to whether he was a relative to the family. In adulthood, Thomas Jnr later became a civil servant in Dublin and, according to the 1911 census, he was living at 72 Lindsay Road, with his aunt Charlotte Louise Beattie. He married in February of the following year, although the initial records, which I consulted, did not reveal to whom he was wedded.

Information found in the ‘Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720-1940’ show that Reginald Francis Malcolmson, son of Thomas R. Jnr was born in Dublin on September 16, 1912. His parents who were protestant decided to ‘move to Belfast’ in 1923. Reginald’s parents' marriage certificate, as I later discovered, showed that his mother was Eveline Maude Bourke, a daughter of Henry Leonard Bourke, who worked as an actuary with a savings bank in Dublin.

Having completed his schooling, Reginald studied under John Macgeagh while attending the College of Technology and, when his student days were complete, he stayed on with Macgeagh as his deputy.

In 1942, his work for an exhibition of a new city plan for Belfast was of said to be of importance and a model of the proposed plan was displayed in the city’s Museum of Art. In the mid-1940s Malcolmson worked with Noel Moffett in Dublin and then returned to Belfast to form a partnership with George P. Bell and Roger H. Bell who were of a well-known Quaker family. George who had an interest in archaeology and old buildings took a keen interest in town planning. Reginald joined the firm around 1944.


Reginald’s obituary in 1992, noted that he emigrated to Chicago in 1947, 'to study under Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology', and it was here he achieved 'his master's degree two years later'. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the famous German-born American architect, was renowned for what the Encyclopaedia Britannica called 'rectilinear forms', created in 'elegant simplicity', that came to epitomise an 'International style of architecture'. Malcolmson then had the honour of becoming an administrative assistant to Mies van der Rohe.

On September 1, 1964, Reginald F. Malcolmson MS Arch, joined Michigan University in the USA as Professor of Architecture and Dean of the College of Architecture and Design. It was said that the Vice-President for Academic Affairs at the institution paid a steep price over the appointment of Malcolmson to the deanship with the Vice-President being quoted in the Proceedings of the Board of Regents as saying: ‘Two issues faced the college and the university in considering the appointment. The first is the considerable ferment in architectural education today. The second is the problem of internal organization of the college itself. These include the relationship of the departments to the college and those of the departments to each other’s. Both issues involved educational policy and call for intellectual leadership of a high order… as a result of the recommendation of the committee and of the authorities in the field, Professor Malcolmson, who has been associated with the Department of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology since 1949 and who on several occasions has been Director of that department, was chosen for the deanship.’

Professor Malcolmson retired from teaching in 1983 and became a regular speaker on the lecture circuit in North and South America. He died on Monday, June 1, 1992, aged 79 years, at the University of Michigan Hospital, in the city of Ann Arbor; Reginald Malcolmson and his wife Margaret Lindsay whom he was married for over 40 years lived in Ann Arbor, a city celebrated for its inspirational worldwide 'cultural offerings'.

The New York Times wrote that the ‘late professor emeritus of architecture and former university Dean’ was survived by his wife Margaret; a son Niall, in Chicago; and daughter, Eithne, of Ann Arbor and Guernavaca, Mexico; and a grandson.


In March 1906, the Masonic Provincial Grand Lodge of Meath met at Cootehill where they transacted ordinary business in the company of over 60 brethren who attended from 'the various lodges' and as soon as the ordinary business was completed an illuminated address and gold jewel were presented to Brother Rev Dr Richard Plummer, who had recently resigned the incumbency of Ashfield.

Plummer had a 36-year connection to Cootehill Masonic Lodge and was the rector of Ashfield for 33 years. The brethren in attendance then presented Mrs Plummer with a silver-mounted cut-glass salad bowl.

Afterwards, the brethren were ready for refreshments and sat down to lunch in the Bellamont Arms Hotel where the catering was reported to have been carried out to in ‘an excellent manner'. Then, having observed the usual masonic toasts, the brethren cheerfully departed, going their separate ways. The parishioners at Ashfield also held a meeting to make a presentation to Dr Plummer whom they referred to as a genial and sympathetic churchman who remained ‘kind to all in distress'.

Dr Plummer replied on receiving the presentation: ‘At a time such as this my memory recalls the nominators who appointed me to Ashfield 33 years ago, and who have long entered into their rest… my wife and daughter join me in thanking you for your remembrance of them and pray that the grace of God may be with you all.


Laying of the foundation stone for St Patrick’s College