Dr. Sharon Egretta Sutton, FAIA is an activist educator and public scholar who promotes inclusivity in the cultural makeup of the city-making professions and in the populations they serve, and also advocates for participatory planning and design processes in disenfranchised communities.
Over a 43-year period, Sutton has served on the faculties of Parsons School of Design, Pratt Institute, Columbia University, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Michigan, and the University of Washington. In addition to professional students in architecture, she has taught professional students in urban planning, landscape architecture, and interior design, and has supervised doctoral students in architecture, urban planning, social welfare, and education.
Sutton, who previously practiced architecture in New York City, was the twelfth African American woman to be licensed to practice architecture, the first to be promoted to full professor of architecture, the second to be elected a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and the first to be president of the National Architectural Accrediting Board. She holds five academic degrees—in music, architecture, philosophy, and psychology—and has studied graphic art internationally.
Sutton’s scholarship explores America’s continuing struggle for racial justice and its effect on the built environment. Her funding has come from the Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Hewlett Foundation, among others. Her latest book, When Ivory Towers Were Black: A Story about Race in Americas Cities and Universities, portrays what was undoubtedly the nation’s most audacious effort to recruit African American and Latino students to Columbia University’s School of Architecture.
Early in her career, Sutton worked as a professional musician in New York City, most notably for Sol Hurok Attractions and in the original cast of Man of La Mancha. Her fine art is in the Library of Congress and has been exhibited in and collected by galleries and museums, business enterprises, and colleges and universities.
Sutton received the Medal of Honor from both AIA New York and AIA Seattle, and the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award from AIA National. She is a distinguished professor of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and an inductee into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.