Vernacular language scholar John Rickford and Indian architect and educator Brinda Somaya have been named Andrew Dickson White Professors-at-Large for six-year terms effective July 1.

The appointments were approved by President Martha E. Pollack and the Cornell University Board of Trustees at their May meeting. Faculty members nominate candidates, and a faculty selection committee reviews and recommends the appointments.

Twice during their terms, A.D. White professors-at-large visit campus for about a week while classes are in session, to enliven the intellectual and cultural life of the university.


Somaya is an internationally recognized architect, planner, educator, preservationist and community activist based in Mumbai, with a well-established influence on architectural education and practice in emerging countries. She was nominated by Mary Woods, professor of architecture.

Somaya’s building projects typically embody conservation of materials and resources, and a participatory design ethos considering local circumstances and cultural contexts tied to issues of social equity. In this alternative practice, the architect functions as facilitator, professional adviser and community organizer.

“The architect’s role is that of guardian – he or she is the conscience of the built and un-built environment,” she says.

Somaya is the principal architect and managing director of Somaya and Kalappa Consultants and a founder trustee of the HECAR Foundation (dedicated to history, education, conservation, architecture and research), which sponsored the first Women in Architecture conference in 2000, with an exhibition of work by women architects in South Asia.

She was recently awarded the restoration of the Indian Institute of Management, Louis Kahn’s modernist masterpiece in Ahmedabad, in an international competition.

Somaya was named a distinguished professor by the Indian Education Society’s College of Architecture in Mumbai in 2015. She is the first woman to win the Wienerberger Award for Lifetime Achievement in Architecture (2007) and the Indian Institute of Architects lifetime achievement award (2014).

Her other honors include UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific Award (2004) for the restoration of Mumbai’s 18th-century landmark St. Thomas Cathedral, and the 2011 international award from SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design) Network. She graduated from the Sir J.J. College of Architecture in Mumbai and has a master’s degree from Smith College.