Arthur Gensler at CCA’s 2018 Gala honoring Kay Kimpton Walker. Photo by Drew Altizer Photography.

In Memoriam: Arthur Gensler, 1935–2021

Honoring the legacy of an influential leader and friend to the CCA community.

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of California College of the Arts Board Chair and Trustee M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. Gensler passed away peacefully at his home in Mill Valley on Monday, May 10.

In 1965, Arthur Gensler founded the global architecture, design, planning, and consulting firm Gensler, which began as a small shop in San Francisco and grew to become the largest design firm in the world. Gensler now has more than 4,000 employees, including numerous CCA alumni, in 46 locations in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

For 11 years as a trustee and the past four as board chair, Gensler championed the role of art and design education as an engine for cultural and economic vitality. He was a generous supporter and inspired many others to invest in CCA’s students, faculty, and programs.

Gensler played a critical role in creating and implementing the multi-year plan for the unification of CCA’s campuses in San Francisco, leading the college’s work on every aspect from architect selection to the capital campaign. “It has been my great privilege to partner with him on this work,” said CCA President Stephen Beal in a message to the CCA community, noting that Gensler approached the project “with an intelligence, openness, and warm, enthusiastic manner that has defined his life and career, even as he grew his namesake company from a three-person studio with a homemade drafting table to the largest design firm in the world.”

Gensler’s focus on students—their talents, challenges, and potential—was unwavering. He inspired CCA to dream big and achieve more specifically for the benefit of our students. He thrived on campus, meeting with students and faculty, greeting visitors at events, and attending exhibitions and lectures. His philanthropic support for students was unwavering as well, beginning with a gift to the CCA Library 27 years ago and continuing with growing generosity for a variety of programs year after year.

In early 2021, Gensler announced that he would step down from his position on CCA’s Board of Trustees. The board celebrated Gensler’s countless contributions to the CCA community with a video tribute and a small virtual gathering. “My wife Dee and I were also so pleased to have a chance to visit with Art and his friend Rita just a few weeks ago,” said Beal. “We shared a bottle of wine, and I listened while Art, as ambitious and optimistic as usual, mused about people we should meet with to discuss the future campus. This surely was the key to his success and longevity. He knew how to build things—ideas, businesses, skyscrapers, schools.”

In addition to his philanthropic work with CCA, Gensler served on the board of trustees of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. He graduated from Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning and was a member of its advisory council. He is widely credited with having elevated the field of interior design to professional standing.

It was his wish that, in lieu of flowers, people give to CCA Diversity Scholarships. Gifts can be made at

“Art was a transformational leader within our CCA community, and his absence will be greatly felt,” said Beal. “So too will his legacy.”