By Design: The Pratt Institute’s Dr. Thomas F. Schutte

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 Most evenings I am out on the town attending gallery openings or gala events. I enjoy meeting new people and getting them involved with Pratt.

For 125 years Pratt Institute has been a local beacon for young artists, artists, designers and illustrators, with a novella’s worth of trailblazing alumni including George Lois, Robert Mapplethorpe and Robert Redford. But few figures have loomed as largely over Pratt as Dr. Thomas F. Schutte, its president of nearly 20 years.

Dr. Schutte was surrounded by the school’s friends and founder Charles Pratt’s family on October 15 at the Waldorf Astoria— designed in 1929 by Pratt alumnus Lloyd Morgan—to mark the big birthday. Protean Broadway, film and opera director Julie Taymor was the woman of honor and, like Russell Simmons, spoke to guests about the necessity of arts funding and education. Dr. Schutte has improved Pratt’s own financial prospects. During his tenure, the endowment has grown from $13 million to over $100 million, allowing it to attract a broader student body. “When I first came to Pratt it was essentially a local commuter school and I’ve helped transform it into a national residential college,” he says.

The Chrysler Building is one of Dr. Schutte’s favorite Pratt designs (Big Bird and the Ford Thunderbird are two others). But on the anniversary gala night, it was the Empire State Building that was, for the first time, bathed in celebratory gold. With history in mind, Dr. Schutte is considering what his own legacy will be: “I’ve rebuilt Pratt to become the preeminent college of art, design, and architecture in the United States and the world.”

5:15 AM Most of the time I wake up without an alarm, shave, and play with our three-year-old black Scottie, Nellie, who is both a champion and grand champion dog.

6:15–7:30 AM Swimming has been part of my routine for the last 25 to 30 years. I swim 30 laps a day at the pool at Long Island University.

8:00 AM I go home to Clinton Avenue, which is one of the most beautiful stretches in all of Brooklyn. My house on Clinton Avenue is one of four remaining residences built by Pratt Institute founder Charles Pratt for his family in the 1890s; the street became known as the most fashionable avenue in Brooklyn in no small part from their presence.

10:00 AM There’s nothing like entering campus from Willoughby Avenue and seeing the beautiful Rose Garden and sculptures from Pratt’s Sculpture Park, the largest outdoor sculpture park in New York. When I came to Pratt nearly 20 years ago there wasn’t a blade of grass on campus and its buildings were in need of restorations. It is gratifying to see the campus restored and thriving.

12:00 PM–2:30 PM Most days I have lunch in the Pratt dining hall where I get to interact with students, faculty, and staff. On days I have lunch off campus I’m usually at the University Club meeting with donors or board members. When I have lunch off campus in Brooklyn I try out new restaurants on Myrtle Avenue.

3:30 PM Today, October 17, is an incredibly special day for Pratt since it marks the anniversary of the Institute’s founding. We’re throwing a party on the Brooklyn campus complete with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” on our steam calliope. Members of the Pratt community are dressing in period costumes to recreate a photo of the original Pratt faculty members from the 1880s in our archives.

7:30-9 PM Most evenings I am out on the town attending gallery openings or gala events. I enjoy meeting new people and getting them involved with Pratt. I’ll also read a variety of publications including The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Antiques and The Fine Arts. I’ll also revisit the Times.

10-11 PM The earliest I go to bed is 10 PM. Usually it’s between 10 PM and 11 PM but if Tess and I are at an event or at the theater it can be closer to 11:30 PM.

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