Professor dies after brief fight against cancer

Courtesy of SU News

Earlier this month, Syracuse University and the School of Architecture lost a member of its teaching family as Joel Bostick, a professor of architecture, passed away Nov. 8 after a rapid bout with cancer claimed his life.

‘I really never met anyone like him,’ said Michael Tamara, a thesis graduate student in the School of Architecture. ‘He was one of the most influential professors I’ve ever had.’

Bostick’s interests and talents outside of the classroom formed a man whose unique personality touched nearly every architecture student to come through the program, said architecture professor Arthur McDonald.

Bostick loved sailing and skiing, and had a knack for practical thinking. Tamara said he will remember him for his direct approach to presenting course material and a common-sense approach to thinking of architecture.

Tamara worked with Bostick as his teaching assistant this semester in Bostick’s Advanced Building Systems class, a course designed by Bostick that helped to earn the School of Architecture top rankings as a highly reputed school on the East Coast.

The class, regarded by Bostick’s closest colleagues as one of the most accomplished and recognized courses offered, focused on examining buildings in case study format and forcing students to take details such as building codes and fire stairs into account before designing, not after.

As his closest colleague and friend since graduate school at Cornell, McDonald saw Bostick’s insight into architecture reflected in his interests and personality outside of the classroom.

‘He was a guy who could take apart a whole motorcycle and put it back together over a weekend,’ McDonald said.

McDonald also recounted Bostick’s prowess as a sailor, remembering sailing trips on Lake George, his leadership symbolized by being a skipper. McDonald remembered their pioneering fieldwork in Florence together as another example of how Bostick’s enthusiasm for the material became an integral part of the architectural community both at SU and abroad.

McDonald also said that Bostick always managed to sneak in a few extra trips to buildings while taking students around Florence.

Regarding his approach to architecture, McDonald said Bostick’s strength was to combine knowledge of practicality in design, for example examining ventilation and plumbing requirements in a building and incorporating it thoughtfully into the aesthetic aspects of the design.

Bostick incorporated matter-of-fact humor into his teachings to illustrate his point that a building has to work in addition to looking good, Tamara said.

During his lectures, Bostick often used Slocum Hall, the home of the architecture school, as a prime example of bad design remedied later by renovations that further complicate things, Tamara said.

He went on to say that Slocum Hall used to have an atrium that stretched to the skylight on the top floor, but at some point in the building’s history, fire codes mandated that the atrium could only be two floors high so a lower ceiling was put in. Tamara used Bostick’s example to show why architects need to think of fire codes for example in design.

Tamara said using anecdotes like that in his lectures ingratiated him to his students, of whom he demanded a lot.

‘He was demanding and asked a lot of his students but they appreciated it,’ said Heidi Kadick, the assistant to the graduate architecture chair and colleague of Bostick for at least 15 years. ‘He was very energetic and caring, he took teaching very seriously. It’s just hard to believe he’s not here anymore.’


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