Dear Alumni of the Columbia Historic Preservation Program: 

As many of you have now heard, the Director of Conservation position held by Professor George Wheeler has been eliminated. You can read the full statement from the Historic Preservation program here. Preservation Alumni board members have been hearing a growing number of concerns from fellow alumni about changes to the Historic Preservation program, including this most recent one. In an attempt to better understand this restructuring and to better address our members’ concerns, Preservation Alumni has opened a conversation with Program Director Jorge Otero-Pailos. However, at the moment we know only what has been publicly announced so we urge alumni to direct their questions and concerns to the program and Jorge directly at In addition to being the best source of updated information, we feel that Jorge and others within the department should be made aware of specific issues and the number of alumni concerned by this development. 

The board of Preservation Alumni realizes that this announcement comes as a shock and we, along with all of you, feel emotional about George’s departure. George influenced each and every one of our lives in indelible ways, both personally and professionally. To many, he was the linchpin of the program and the reason we chose to attend Columbia. George both supported our intellectual endeavors and was the friendly face we all needed at one time or another as we were thrown into new lives in New York City. He would let us sleep off our all-nighters in the conservation lab and be ready with a cup of coffee in the morning. He made a point to actively know all the students, he shared his wisdom, and he even so generously shared his wine. Beyond making the lab feel like a home to many, he created a learning environment where scientists, planners, and budding preservationists alike were comfortable to ask questions, engage in dialogue, and understand even the most complex chemical analysis – he is truly a remarkable educator, mentor, and friend. We thank George from the bottom of our hearts for his many years of service to the program and invaluable contributions to so many of our career paths. 

In speaking with George about all of the recent changes, he has asked that we share this short message: “I would hope that all alumni and concerned preservation professionals do all they can to help make the program as good as it can be moving forward.” As such, Preservation Alumni’s mission is to support and enrich the program and we will continue to work towards this mission in this time of change. Our main goal is to maintain a “place at the table” so that we can help the program in any way and communicate the sentiments of our membership. Be assured that Preservation Alumni is also devoted to ensuring that our alumni network is kept up-to-date on any news and ways that alumni can support our program. Thank you all for your continued commitment to the program and for fostering an active alumni network, without which none of our work would be possible. 

– Board of Directors, Preservation Alumni

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