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College of Environment and Design

Beloved CED Professor Ron Sawhill Retires

It is with bittersweet wishes that the College of Environment and Design announces the retirement of Ron Sawhill, associate professor and Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) program coordinator for the CED.

Originally from Michigan, Sawhill first visited UGA in 1975 and immediately fell in love with its landscape architecture program, then offered through the School of Environmental Design (SED).

Sawhill earned a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture in 1980 and completed a Master of Landscape Architecture in 1995. After pursuing a brief teaching opportunity in the Midwest, Sawhill returned to UGA and began teaching full-time. He has been a beloved and invaluable member of UGA’s landscape architecture program ever since.

Sawhill has taught a variety of courses at the CED, including design studios and classes in construction and stormwater management. In his role as program coordinator for the BLA program, he has helped students secure scholarships and internships relating to their chosen career paths.

In addition to being an esteemed faculty member of the CED, Sawhill has worked professionally in the landscape architecture industry and has held professional roles such as President of the Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

“It has been an incredible pleasure and honor to work with Ron,” said Dean Sonia Hirt. “His kindness, competence and generosity are unparalleled.”


Ron’s time at the CED has been fulfilling and exciting. Below, Ron talks about his favorite memories and offers advice for current CED students:


What is one of your favorite memories from your time at the CED?

My first contact with the CED (then the SED) was a campus visit in the Fall of 1975 that sold me on pursuing landscape architecture here at UGA. In the ensuing 48 years, 35 have been spent at the CED, so I have many great memories. But one of my most favorite has to be Fall Semester 2010, when I had the pleasure of teaching 13 of our BLAs and 2 of our MLAs at UGA Costa Rica from August to early December.

The relative remoteness of the campus high on a mountainside, very infrequent internet connection and absence of cell phone coverage at that time created a wonderful atmosphere for building community, exploring the cloud forest and immersing ourselves in the local culture. We really got to know each other by living together, eating together and exploring Costa Rica together for four months.

Being there during the rainy season, we had many opportunities to discuss stormwater management firsthand… like when pushing our bus out of the mud, slip-sliding on mountain trails and ducking into local coffee growers for fresh brewed cups. At one point, a hurricane decided to camp over Honduras for two weeks and dump 38 inches of rain on us; the unrelenting rain really dampened everyone’s spirits.

Thankfully, our scheduled field trip to the Pacific Coast came right at the end of those two weeks, and when the sun came out that first day at the beach, the sense of joy and celebration was tangible. That group of students really bonded together, and their friendships continued well after our return to the states.


What advice do you have for students at the CED?

Careers are moving targets; don’t over-plan. Design in general and landscape architecture as a profession are rich with possibilities and directions for career development. Explore as much of design and the profession as you can to find what you really enjoy and excel in. Let that process take you where it will.

I didn’t set out to be a teacher or an administrator; interests that developed while in private practice eventually led me back to UGA and a second degree in landscape architecture with the intent to pursue teaching and research. That opened the doors to a first teaching opportunity in the Midwest, and then to part time teaching and professional consulting in Athens, and finally into full-time academia and eventually administration.

But my #1 recommendation for any student who graduates from this program is get your professional license as soon as you can. Once you’ve got that, you have great flexibility, broad marketability and as much professional security as you’re going to find in any profession.


Do you have any exciting plans for your retirement?

I’m looking forward to having the time to actively work our little farm, goof off a bit, travel some, enjoy being with children and grandchildren across the southeast, teach when I want to, and attend to some writing projects I’ve started but not had the time to complete.



Good luck, Ron! We wish you the best in retirement!

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