Longtime Stuckeman School architecture professor to retire June 30

June 22, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Professor Loukas Kalisperis, a longtime faculty member within the Department of Architecture in the Stuckeman School at Penn State, will retire at the end of June following 35 years of service to the University. 

A staple within the architecture studio and the classroom, Kalisperis is a co-creator of the Stuckeman School’s Immersive Environments Lab (IEL), a joint venture with Penn State's Information Technology Services Visualization Group. The IEL is an integral part of the architecture curriculum, allowing students to better visualize their designs using virtual reality technology.

He also spearheaded the department’s switch from a mainframe computer to PCs in the late 1980s/early 1990s. 

“When I first came to Penn State, the department was using remote terminals to connect to a mainframe computer in Engineering Unit D. The interface was clumsy, and even word processing was ridiculously complex,” said Dan Willis, professor of architecture who joined the faculty in 1987. “Our students were intimidated by the complexity and few of them wanted to use the system that was in place. Loukas argued for switching to personal computers, which were just then becoming powerful enough to do 3D modeling and computer-aided design.”

Admired by former students for his honest feedback and the way he would jump out of his seat excitedly during reviews, Kalisperis earned numerous teaching honors while at Penn State. He received the University’s President’s Award for Excellence in Academic Integration in 2005 and the Undergraduate Program Leadership Award in 2018. He was also the recipient of the Apple Distinguished Educator Award in 2000. 

“Loukas would never beat around the bush. He would tell a student if their project was good or if it was bad, but never in a demeaning way,” said Reggie Avilés, an instructor who often taught studio with Kalisperis. A 1999 Penn State graduate of the Bachelor of Architecture program, Avilés also studied under Kalisperis as an undergraduate. 

“He would tell them their project was not up to par, but he would push them to improve it in a reverse-psychology kind of way,” he said. 

According to others, he also had a way of pushing any credit for a job well done to others surrounding him, often shying from the spotlight. 

“What I will always remember while working with Loukas is how he always tried to propel people — whether it be colleagues or students — forward,” said Avilés. “He always gave credit to others and never tried to take credit for himself. He loved to celebrate and bring attention to the accomplishments of others even if he had a big role in achieving those accolades,” he said. 

Profile image of Loukas Kalisperis

Loukas Kalisperis, professor of architecture

IMAGE: Penn State

While on sabbatical in 2005-06, Kalisperis became one of the founding members of the Cypress Institute (Cyl) along with academics from the University of Athens, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, MIT, and the Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France. He was instrumental in setting up the Computation-based Science and Technology Research Center (CaSToRC) and the Science and Technology in Archaeology and Culture Research Center (STARC) at the Cyl. 

He was also responsible for orchestrating the early collaborations of the Institute which now include partnerships with the Max Planck Society; Jülich Supercomputing Center; French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS); National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (Italy); National Research Council (Italy); ETH Zürich; Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Imperial College; Tel Aviv University; and Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Russia), among others.

From 2008 to 2010, Kalisperis took a leave of absence from Penn State and returned to the Cyl as a professor and researcher with CaSToRC and STARC. He also served as the interim vice president for research from 2009 to 2010. During his time there, he developed the doctoral programs in computational science and science and technology in cultural heritage. He also helped define the physical infrastructure and the campus of the institute, working on the design of the Novel Technologies Building and the renovation of the Guy Ourisson Building.

During that same period, Kalisperis was an international fellow with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

Kalisperis spent his most recent sabbatical in 2015-16 at Cyl, where he holds the title of institute professor. He also served as visiting professor at universities in Brazil, Mexico and Greece throughout his career.

Kalisperis is a proud native of Greece and is known for — sometimes jokingly — tying any great accomplishment back to his home country.

“The Greeks did everything first in his eyes,” said Avilés, adding students and colleagues appreciate Kalisperis’ sense of humor and his ability to laugh at himself. “He loves it when students draw or create caricatures of him. He frames them and hangs them in his office,” explained Avilés. “The crazier, more exaggerated or funnier the caricature, the more he likes it.”

Upon retirement, Kalisperis says he would like to stay closely affiliated with the Department of Architecture at Penn State and Cyl, as well as the Hellenic Authority of Higher Education, of which he is a member.

“I will miss the students and working with them in studio and graduate courses. The challenges and interaction that students present on a daily basis will be certainly missed and impossible to replace,” he said. “I will miss the ‘arguing,’ in the dialectic sense; but I hope to stay in contact with my friends in the department and be available for whatever they need.”

Kalisperis received his general certificate of education in advanced physics and applied mathematics from the College of Arts and Technology in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, and his bachelor of science in architecture from the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, New York. He then came to Penn State and earned a master’s degree in architectural engineering in 1985 and joined the faculty ranks that same year as an instructor. Kalisperis completed his doctorate in architectural design and data systems at Penn State in 1988. 

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 22, 2020