If Kansas University's architecture students can't find their dean in his office, they might look for him in the cockpit of his new red Miata or underneath a soaring stunt kite.
Max Lucas isn't skipping out of his duties as dean KU's School of Architecture and Urban Design consistently rates among the best but his occupation doesn't double as a preoccupation.
While pursuing his wide-ranging interests, Lucas has led the school to an impressive record of accomplishment.
During his 10-year tenure, the school's achievements include: a growing summer program for students to work in 700-year-old buildings in Italy; an annual cash award for the school's outstanding teacher; a program that brings architecture professionals into the school's classrooms; and a brand-new graduate program that allows students with undergraduate degrees in other fields to work directly toward a graduate degree in the school.
ONE OF the stiffest challenges the school faces is a direct result of its success. Word about the school's quality has gotten around and it simply cannot handle all the qualified students that apply each year. Of more than 900 applicants to the school this year, 144 were accepted. Most of those accepted stick with the rigor required to excel in the architecture, architectural engineering and urban planning programs, Lucas said.
"Academically, our entering freshman class always ranks at the top of the entire freshman profile at KU," Lucas said.
Other resources at the school are more scarce. Lucas has must grapple with limited state resources as well as competition from other KU priorities to maintain competitive salaries for the school's faculty.
"We are constantly experiencing raids from other institutions who want to hire our people away," he said.
THE REVAMPED graduate program should produce potential teachers at a faster rate. Before, students with undergraduate degrees outside architecture had to earn an undergraduate architecture degree before pursuing a graduate degree.
The program in Siena, Italy, and other areas of that country makes KU stand out among architecture schools, many of which have expressed interest in modeling similar programs from that one. The program's emphasis also is shifting from undergraduate work to graduate. Students who make the trip gain first-hand experience as they spend time in ancient buildings certainly not readily available in this country.
Italy and most everywhere else can be found on nautical maps on the walls of Lucas' two-story Meadowbrook apartment. The maps reflect Lucas' Navy background, when he first began to fly kites on Virginia Beach.
Lucas' prize possession, a scale model ship complete with riggings, took him about a year-and-a-half to complete.
"Actually, I'm kind of proud of this thing," Lucas said, tugging at the sails.
AS PART of the committee that selected Lucas as dean from an applicant field of about 600, Kansas City, Mo., architect Bruce Patty said he appreciated Lucas' ability to link KU's acedemic mission with the professional world that graduates enter.
"They're not sitting in a vacuum trying to teach young people about architecture," Patty said. "The quality of students is higher than I have ever seen in 35 years of experience."
Patty, like Lucas, received his undergraduate degree from KU. Both the the school and its faculty have grown in quality since then, Patty said, noting that much of the credit goes to the respect given Lucas by KU's administration.
"Max, God love him, he's very straightforward," Patty said. "He doesn't beat around the bush. He can sit at a table of deans and command the respect that our school deserves."