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The legacy of Jane Jacobs lives on at Marywood University

As we continue to celebrate Women's History Month, we meet architecture students at Marywood University, the woman who teaches them, and the woman who inspires them.

DUNMORE, Pa. — Her famous line is "cities are designed by people, for people." That really says it all.'" Some of the most famous words ever spoken by Jane Jacobs. She was a mom, a housewife, and a writer. Her most influential book is called The Death and Life of Great American Cities. 

"So she wrote about living here in northeastern Pennsylvania, and that was the catalyst for the book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and that book is the bible for all students when they go to architecture school and design. It's incredible to me, and it's from our area," said Maria MacDonald, Marywood University Architecture Professor.

Jane Jacobs was born and raised on the 1700 block of Monroe Avenue in Dunmore. She wrote Death and Life in the 1950s; now, the themes of the book and Jane's life are taught just down the road from her childhood home at Marywood University.

"Jane Jacobs is like an icon at this school. We all definitely look up to her ideas, and it's cool to learn about what she did while being right here where she grew up," said Marywood University architecture student Katie Bilello.

Students in the architecture program at Marywood even call themselves 'Jacobsian Scholars,' Jane Jacobs fellows. 

"We started to implement her ideas into our own studio projects, which was pretty cool to see how a little goes a long way, and you can really learn through Jane Jacobs' ideas," said Gianna DiPietro, Marywood University architecture student.

Those ideas focus on social, economic, and environmental issues within a city. And students, both young men and women, are learning about Jane Jacobs from Maria Macdonald. She is not just an architecture professor at Marywood University, she also helped start the program and create the school's entire curriculum. 

"And we built out school very parallel to the values and to the lessons that we have learned from Death and Life and from Jane. Our school is extremely diverse. It's extremely engaged in the community. The work that we do, we always want to give back to our community. It's environmentally sustainable. Jane Jacobs was growing gardens on her roof in the 50s. Now, we have a green roof, right? Hydroponics, all of that, she was doing that 70 years ago," MacDonald said.

Maria MacDonald was also born and raised in Dunmore, just like Jane. Now more than a decade after she created the program, there are more than 350 students in the major. They say everything they have learned at Marywood from Maria, and Jane, will make them better architects when they leave. 

"Something that I actually was really drawn to is the creating spaces for everyone," said Marywood University architecture student Walter Marcinkowski.

"We're making sure that our build environment matches our needs and that we're making our community a safe space and a wonderful place to live," Marywood University architecture student Stephanie Golden added.

And after those students leave, MacDonald finds them always coming back. 

"They come back to us and show us what they've accomplished. That's what makes it amazing, and that's what honors Jane's legacy, and that's the nostalgia, the importance and the weight of her as a strong woman who was a citizen, a mom, a housewife, a journalist, a writer, who really impacted the world and made the biggest difference you could imagine, and it's our responsibility to carry it on," MacDonald said.

Jane Jacobs spent her final years in Toronto and died in 2006. Even though she was a writer and not an architect, her words have given students at Marywood a foundation to build on.

Click here for more information about the School of Architecture at Marywood University.

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