Amherst Magazine

Robert Whitman Harkness
Robert Whitman Harkness

Bob Harkness, an architect, died February 5, 1989 , in his home in the South End of Boston after a long and brave fight against cancer.

A resident of the South End since 1979, Bob was active in the creation of the South End Landmark District and had served on the boards of the South End Historical Society and the Ellis Memorial Association. In 1984-85, he designed and built a Victorian infill house for which he received an award from the Boston Preservation Alliance.

Bob grew up in Englewood , NJ , and graduated from Dwight Morrow High School , named in honor of a distinguished Amherst alumnus. Bob's Godfather, Dr. Robert Breed is also an Amherst Alumnus ('37) and a member of Phi Gamma Delta, as was Bob. It is easy to understand his choice of Amherst ; his loyalty never wavered. While an undergraduate, Bob was active in The Christian Association and majored in economics.

After Amherst , Bob earned his architecture degree at Columbia University 's School of Architecture in 1964. An architect in New York City for 12 years, he was associated successively with the firms of Eggers Partnership, Morris Ketchum Associates and Gruzen and Partners.

Moving to Boston in 1976, he became associated with Whitman and Howard Inc., of Wellesley, Mintz Associates Inc., of Boston and Stubbins Associates Inc. of Cambridge . He was Resident Architect for the Bostonian Hotel and the Federal Building .

In addition to gardening and music, Bob's over-riding interests lay in the conservation and preservation of the world around him. He cared deeply about the relationship between his devotion to architecture and his concern for wider social issues. As he wrote on the occasion of his 25th Amherst Reunion, "I am living and working in a city rebuilding itself with incredible energy; as an architect, reaping the satisfactions and rewards of my small part in it. Yet I find the negativity of our current politics and the unceasing turbulence in the world giving me grave doubts about the future for which we're building. At this point in my life, I can find no adequate philosophical answer - perhaps the uncertainty itself must be considered a creative stimulus!"

Bob used his uncertainty, his creativity, his care for his fellow human beings to help make the future a better time for us all. We shall miss him and his passion - as we cherish his spirit which lives on in the buildings and restorations he leaves behind. May his energy committed to re-building a better world be an inspiration for us all.

He leaves his mother, Florence K. Nelles of Southbury , Conn. , and a brother, John Harkness of Belleville , Ohio , to whom the Class extends its deepest sympathy.

 

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