The history and establishment of the landscape architecture program at Louisiana State University can be credited to one man, Dr. Robert S. Reich, whom everyone affectionately knew as “Doc.” After the completion of his PhD in education from Cornell University in 1941, Reich was asked to come teach courses in landscape design at LSU for one year. In his first class, he taught plant materials to only four students.
His passion for his craft and affinity for teaching led him to become a faculty member in the horticulture department, which at the time was housed in the basement of what is now known as the Agricultural Administration Building. After a three-year absence due to his service in World War II, Reich returned to LSU and the classroom to start the new landscape design program. It would be several more years before anyone would know it as landscape architecture.
In the early 1950s, the horticulture department, which included landscape architecture, was moved to the new Agronomy Horticulture Building, where Reich was given a large studio space on the northeast corner of the second floor. This large space was home to both undergraduate and graduate students. In 1955, Reich decided it was time to apply for accreditation for the program through the American Society of Landscape Architects. Accreditation was achieved for the undergraduate program in 1960. The graduate program received its first accreditation in 1982.
Late in 1964, landscape architecture was removed from the College of Agriculture and moved to the newly formed School of Environmental Design, which included architecture, landscape architecture, and fine arts. Later, due to the Louisiana governor’s ties to the petroleum industry, the word environmental had to be removed from the name, so the college was renamed the College of Art & Design.
Reich retired from the program in 1983 at the age of 70, though he still continued to teach classes. That same year, Emory Smith donated Hilltop Arboretum to the landscape architecture program, and Dr. Neil Odenwald became the program’s second director. In 1990, Bruce Sharky became the school’s third director, and in 2004 Elizabeth Mossop became the fourth director. During this time, the school underwent various updates in curriculum and hired five new faculty members. It was also then that the school’s leaders pushed to name the school the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture. Robert S. Reich passed away on July 31, 2010, at the age of 97, leaving behind a lasting legacy at the school and throughout the profession.
In 2013, Bradley Cantrell became the school’s fifth director. He served in this position for a year and a half, ultimately deciding to accept a position as an associate professor of landscape architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Professor Emeritus Van Cox served as the school’s interim director for one year. Mark E. Boyer was director of the program 2015-2023. Marwan Ghandour is the interim director.