Honorary Degrees
1918 - Present

Virginia Savage McAlester 
Doctor of Arts  2019
Status: conferred

Preservationist Virginia Savage McAlester is best known nationally for her magisterial 1984 book, A Field Guide to American Houses, celebrated by the American Library Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation as the standard reference on American residential architecture across all eras and regions. Her other books include Great American Houses and Their Architectural Styles; A Field Guide to America's Historic Neighborhoods and Museum Houses: The Western States; and Homes of Park Cities, Dallas: Great American Suburbs.

She has a deeply historical sense of place. Her ancestors were among Dallas' first settlers and her father was mayor of Dallas. As a young woman, she became concerned about the material and spiritual loss of established communities as Dallas pushed north. McAlester was a founder of the Historic Preservation League, now Preservation Dallas. It has helped designate and sustain more than 4,000 local landmarks. It is a model adopted by many cities for historic preservation.

In 1984, she created the advocacy group Friends of Fair Park, which successfully petitioned to protect and preserve the permanent buildings in Fair Park, site of the 1936 Texas Centennial, now home to the State Fair of Texas and a broad range of museums and cultural venues. Her many awards include receiving a key to the city of Dallas in 2014, an AIA honorary membership and a Friends of Fair Park Spirit of the Centennial Award in 2017.

For her life of dedication to preserving our common past, Southern Methodist University is honored to confer the degree of Doctor of Arts, honoris causa.