UH remembers architect, professor’s legacy

Associate Professor and registered architect, Thomas Matthew Colbert, passed away on August 21 at the age of 61 from stomach cancer.

After joining the University in 1985, Colbert played a vital role in the Hines College of Architecture. Colbert was dedicated to working with students on countless architectural projects involving urban and regional issues. These programs included levee designs for at-risk coastlines, including the city of Galveston.

Colbert received numerous forms of acknowledgement for his work, including recognition as Educator of the Year by the American Institute of Architects Houston in 2014.

“He was concerned with how design ideas could make a difference in [people’s] lives, especially how Houston could better prepare for hurricanes,” Associate Dean of the College of Architecture Lannis Kirkland said.

Colbert dedicated his tenure to finding innovative ways to protect communities from severe weather using his architectural knowledge. He was a board member on the American Institute of Architects and was appointed by Mayor Annise Parker to the City of Houston General Stakeholder Advisory Group.

“He had the ability to offer both critique and support to all he came in contact with- his family, his students, his colleagues and the administration,” Kirkland said.

Over the course of 30 years at the University, his commitment to the education of his students was obvious.  He used his life to teach others how architecture can ultimately save lives.

“Tom taught literally thousands of students,” College of Architecture associate professor and friend Ronnie Self said. “Through his passion, concern and engagement, he has given students real life experience.”

Colbert was many things to many different people – a professor, an architect, a father, a brother and a friend – but one title was prevalent in everyone’s vocabulary: an artist.

In June, Colbert showed his artistic abilities at the Architecture Show Houston with “Drawings by Thomas Colbert.” When interviewed for the Houston Chronicle’s feature on the exhibit “An Architect Who Knows His Lines” in June, his passion for architecture and art was apparent.

“You just start drawing and do it as a discipline, almost like choreography,” Colbert said to the Houston Chronicle. “Underneath all that there is a psychological condition or mood. That does eventually emerge. The drawings are very quiet in ways, but I see them as a kind of connection between people.”

A celebration of his life and legacy was held this Wednesday in Brennan’s of Houston, where his family and friends commemorated his life and memories.

Colbert is survived by his six children and seven grandchildren.

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