Thursday, September 3, 2009


Dear Friends,

It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing of our friend and colleague Dr. Jeff Lackney today August 29th at 11:00 am. Jeff is survived by his wife Jill and his son Nick.

Prof. Stephen Heppell's sentiments in his posting about Jeff are worth repeating here, Somewhere in all this you seemed to have pushed a snowball off a cliff that has gathered into an avalanche that will touch quite literally millions of lives as around the planet we all now seek to move on from that old factory model of learning to the inspired, delightful, playful, effective, engaging world that great design now offers our learners today.

Jeff has been so integral a part of our life and work that it is impossible to find the right words to describe how much he will be missed. And so, for now at least, we’d rather think about the invaluable gift he gave us by being a part of our lives; of the many fun times we had together in all corners of the world; of the magic he was able to create every time he put pencil (or pen) to paper; of the powerful and indelible mark he has left on our profession; of his laughter – and how he continued to keep a positive attitude and enjoy life despite his deteriorating health. The above picture of a smiling Jeff was taken by Prakash just a few months ago in Malaysia. This is how we will always remember him.

Jeff- You’re the Man! And you always will be. We love you brother and we’ll carry the torch for you. Knowing you, we are guessing you are wondering what the fuss is all abut as you sip your favorite Mojito in some heavenly place (and we mean that literally of course) surveying with well-deserved satisfaction the vast global tapestry of your unique contributions.

Randy and Prakash



    What a shock to receive this news. I recall many hours with Jeff, passionately discussing his vision for what was then termed “schools of the future”, and his ability to bridge architectural theory with construction practicality, a rarity indeed, whilst standing his ground to those more focused, such as myself, on mundane matters such as budget and schedule. I was amazed at his research into the history of the design studio, which he shared with me, and I believe informed his school learning studio designs, and recall thinking that I would never have given this subject a second thought but his robust knowledge piqued my interest! He had that ability; I knew I could learn lots from him and enjoyed many evenings in a certain Caribbean idyll benefitting from this unilateral transfer of information whilst watching the sun dip below the horizon far out to sea. I failed to see the horizon moving closer. I moved on and we lost touch in the last few years, but I often saw his name pop up on my Skype account, announcing that Jeff Lackney had just signed in, and once or twice in the last few months had engaged in online conversations with him, but he kept silent on his state of health; our chat focusing solely on education projects, his unwavering passion. Jeff, my acquaintance was made through work, but I’m pleased that it developed into friendship, and although brief, was rewarding (for me) and I know though that even though you have left us prematurely, I will continue to learn from you. As we say in South Africa, the country of my birth, Hamba Kahle (isiZulu for “go well”).
    Kevin Magill

  2. Jeff, you will be deeply deeply missed. My family's thoughts and prayers are with your family's. May you always look over us from above and ensure that we are carrying on your life's work. Peace. Jen


    At this time things don’t seem to make sense when our son we have loved has been taken away from us at the wrong time. Some would say that the world was never meant for someone as talented and creative an Architect as Jeffery.

    Jeffery finished his work and left the stage in a manner that leaves those of us left behind crying with agony in our hearts as the fragile threads of our faith are so violently shredded.

    Is anyone strong enough to stay conscious through such a moment of pain and suffering? Probably very few. And even they would have only a whisper of the inner peace amidst the screaming trumpets of their rage, grief, horror and desolation.

    My deepening pain cannot be ended with my own words, nor should my memories attempt to do that. My Pain for my son Jeffery is a legacy for me alone. Not that Jeff would inflict such pain by choice - but there it is - a lump in my heart as it seems it is in your spirit and the hearts of his workmates.

    And, this hurting must burn its purifying way to completion.

    Something in us dies when we bear the unbearable and it is only in that dark night of the soul that we are prepared to see as God sees and to love as God loves.

    Now is the time to let grief find expression- and with no false strength.

    Now is the time, for me to sit and speak to Jeffery and thank him for being our son these all too few years and to encourage him to go on with whatever his work now will become. And, in this knowledge, each of us also will grow in compassion and wisdom from the splendid experience of his presence.

    In my heart, I know Jeffery will meet us again and again and again in our memories and dreams and recognize the many ways we have known and loved one another.

    And when we meet in those silent moments we will know in a flash: What now is not given us to know at this time. Why this had to be the way it was.

    Our rational mind cannot ever know what has happened. But, our hearts- if we keep them open to God- will find an intuitive way.

    Jeffery has come from us, his mother and his father, to do his good work on earth, which includes his manner of death. Now I believe that his soul and sparkling spirit is set free.

    The love we can share with him is invulnerable to the winds of time and space.
    And, in this deep sense of love include all who knew him.

    Today when Jeffery died … things do not seem to make sense when the man I have loved for so long was taken away from me at the wrong time.

    Some would say that the world was never meant for someone so talented and creative as Jeffery. But, I will remember his smile and voice forever.

    Peace and Only Good Things
    Robert Lackney , Jeffery’s father

  4. I am sad to hear of Jeff's passing. I first met Jeff in 2004 after recieving countless mailings from the University of Wisconsin to attend professional development seminars. The high performing learning places seminar included many insights into making exceptional learning places. I knew I had stumbled into something great, organized by someone with vision. I didn't know how to apply what I had been exposed to until 6 months later when I began working with Frank Locker on a new high school in Montana. Many years later I learned Frank and Jeff worked together-- the small world of exceptional educational planning. I continue to carry what I learned from Jeff and will miss his presence in our community.

    Nick Salmon

  5. I am so sorry to hear about Jeff's death, I remember all the times that he and I and Jill laughed, laughing to the point of tears. I am so glad that we had those wonderful times together, such amazing memories. All of us going to Empire State building, getting stuck in the subway and Jeff looking at me sideways when I told him that had never happened to me before. Man, did we laugh!! I am really going to miss you, Jeff.

  6. I and all of my collegues are saddened to hear of Jeff's passing. We did not have have an opportunity to work extensively with Jeff, and that is our loss. In the short time we had together, it was readily apparent that Jeff was a passionate teacher and was thrilled to share his knowledge and experience with all. His honesty and integrity shone through immediately, and his good nature made you feel like a longtime friend. He will be missed by those who knew him well, and those who had hoped to. The world is a lesser place without him, and a better place having had him. Our condolences go out to his friends and his family, and his friends who were like family.

  7. I was very upset to learn of Jeff's passing. Jeff made his mark on the students, staff and community of Porirua to help develop New Zealands's first 21st Century learning facility. I always found Jeff warm and welcoming and he helped us to make some ground breaking steps within the secondary education sector.
    To Jeff's family and friends, know that he was respected and loved from this side of the world and my condolences go out to you. Take care


    It was with great sadness that we heard today that Jeff had passed away. We remember his time in NZ at the start of the Porirua College project, and also his concept work at Heretaunga College. At a personal level I really enjoyed working together. Jeff's knowledge, passion and enthusiasm in the design of learning spaces was both challenging and energising for us too. There will always be a legacy of his short time with us here in NZ in the wonderful new learning communities that are currently in construction at Porirua College.

    From all at Opus Architecture here in Wellington please pass on our condolences to his family and colleagues.

    Kind regards


    Bruce Curtain
    Principal Architect, Associate
    Opus Architecture
    Wellington, New Zealand

  9. I was devastated to learn of Jeff's death this weekend. I feel honoured to have had him as a colleague -- not only because he was brilliant and hard working, but also because he was a joy to be around -- great fun and always excited about discovering new places and ideas.

    I first met Jeff in late 2006 when he travelled to Australia for work on the Bendigo Education Plan projects. As the local FNI rep (at that time a very fresh trainee on my first FNI job) I was charged with driving Jeff and Prakash around the state, and it was in the car driving around Bendigo that I first got to know Jeff. A tall bloke, Jeff didn't fit very well into the back seat of my 2-door car, so he got shotgun every time, much to Prakash's annoyance! On first meeting Jeff I remarked to him that he reminded me of the British actor John Cleese -- this being quite a compliment -- Jeff was unfamiliar with him though and entirely unsure of how to take it! Once he'd done a little research, Jeff was quite taken with the comparison and proceeded to ham up a Cleese impersonation whenever he saw me. I also remember Jeff's banter over the Aussie pronunciation of 'No', which I think (according to him) came out something more like 'Noiy'!

    Jeff's talent as a designer was phenomenal. On more than one occasion I was doubtful of anybody's ability to create an effective learning community space out of very limited allocation, and Jeff always managed to make something brilliantly functional and beautiful out of what appeared to be very few resources. Jeff's research and writing were clearly great passions, but his gift with the felt-tipped marker managed to multiply the power of his written words many times over.

    I will miss Jeff. He was a great colleague and friend. I know the rest of the FNI team feel the same.

    I send my heartfelt sympathy to Jill and Nick, and to Jeff's parents. I hope you are all able to mourn his tragic early departure and to celebrate the brilliance he always made the most of.

  10. This is indeed a sad day. We will remember Jeff for his outstanding commitment and contribution to our field and the communities and individuals he touched.

    -William S. DeJong, Ph.D., REFP
    CEO, DeJONG Inc.

  11. Truly, a sad moment for us all. Jeff's passion for education is reflected in his writing and in his interaction with friends and colleagues. He will be missed.

    Henry Sanoff

  12. Jeff was a truly great person in every respect. Our best wishes go out to Jill, Nick and the rest of their extended family. We are deeply sorry.

    David L. Schrader, AIA, LEED AP
    SCHRADERGROUP architecture, LLC

  13. Jeff was a colleague and more importantly, a friend and I miss him deeply. Thoughts and prayers go out to Jill and Nick. Here is a remembrance of time spent with Jeff in Canada:

    Peace and Love,
    John Sole
    Guerilla Educators/Sole Productions

  14. I was very sad to receive your notice and really appreciate you letting me know. I learned so much from Jeff and he really helped me to understand new ways of educational learning that I use everyday as we develop projects for NZ schools. He will be missed.

    -Martin Watson

  15. Very sad. I read the tributes. It sounds like he was a very inspirational person. I hope that the inspiration he inspired in others will live on.

    -Chris Kirby

  16. I was visiting a professor in Shorewood Hills, Jeff's neighborhood in Madison, yesterday afternoon. It's by far the most beautiful neighborhood in Madison, and the sun was shining, the gardens glistening, everything looked just as it should. Yet I felt a deep sense of sorrow. Everytime I've driven through Shorewood, I've thought of Jeff and his family so yesterday was no different except for this emotionally charged moment of loss. I'm sure Jeff is still looking over Shorewood Hills and his home, making sure that it remains beautiful, well cared for and peaceful.

    Jill and Nick, my thoughts are with you.

  17. Jane Morelli JohnsonSeptember 2, 2009 at 8:25 AM

    I was deeply sorry to hear of the passing of Jeff Lackney. For those of us who journeyed to Minneapolis to visit two years ago and on behalf of our middle school team, my prayers and thoughts are with Fielding Nair and the Lackney Family.

    In sympathy,
    Jane Morelli Johnson
    MS Director

  18. Let me echo Jane’s sentiments. As Duke School is now functioning on a beautiful and utilitarian consolidated campus, a piece of Jeff lives in Durham.
    Our most sincere condolences.

  19. I knew Jeff first as a colleague at UW - Madison, then as a collaborator on the "Science Deck" project at Schenk Elementary School, next as a scholar presenting research at EDRA conferences and most recently as "Nick's Dad" -- as I was "Isaac's Dad" -- at the many baseball and basketball games our son's played together.

    I will never forget the look we shared as Isaac zipped a bounce pass to Nick in the low post, who gave a little shoulder fake -- just enough -- turned, and scored with the most elegant left-handed baby-hook a young kid has ever made. Sweet. That's the image of Jeff I'll keep in mind. Confident. Delighted. A little proud. An easy smile. And a big big heart.

    I will miss Jeff.

    He will be in my thoughts whenever I work with schools, whenever I speak at EDRA, whenever I am with my son.

    So few people truly leave the world a better place. I hope his memory inspires me to be a better designer, colleague and friend.

    My deepest condolences to Jill and Nick.

    sam dennis

  20. I just had the sad task of helping to put together an obituary for Jeff for the EDRA website. We both became members of EDRA at around the same time during graduate school, and he was but a year older than me. I think I met him for the first time in the late 80s as a student member of the organization. Over the years we shared a number of meals and delightful conversations, and recently I shared a couple of playful banters with him on Facebook.

    However, writing the piece I realize he was much more than a pleasant, valuable colleague. His passing is a tragic loss to our professional community; I can only image how sad this must be for his family and dear friends. My deepest condolences to those who loved him.

    Sincerest regards,
    nana kirk

  21. Whatta leader, whatta smile, whatta guy.

  22. Vale Jeff!
    Jeff is well and warmly remembered. His sterling foundation work lives on in many places and 'spaces' - but most especially for us in Australia through the Master of Education unit of study 'Designing Spaces for Learning' at Queensland University of Technology. Thoughts and prayers are with Jeff's family. Raylee and the MEd team

  23. Carole Mark, AIA, REFPSeptember 25, 2009 at 6:28 AM

    I was saddened to hear of the passing of Jeff Lackney. Please accept my condolences on the loss of your friend, partner and co-conspirator. He will be missed by all of us in the CEFPI community. I had great hopes for working together last year and now am dismayed at the opportunity lost.

    Please extend my condolences to the family as you talk to them next; from one more long distance friend of Jeff’s.

    I hope to see you both on the circuit again soon; and look forward to working with you both.

    Take care,

    Carole Mark AIA, REFP
    CRM Architecture Inc

  24. All the things we want to do, and time doesn't allow.

    through you I learned Patience, strength -without need to exhibit force, and many other things one cannot get from an academic program.

    I still hear your voice, Jeff.

    Brian O'Looney AIA LEED
    Classmate 1994
    now Torti Gallas & Partners

  25. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.............................................

  26. How I missed the news of Jeff's death is beyond belief and the ugly reality that perhaps I let a too busy life not take the time to stay connected with those who inspire us. I first met Jeff in The Netherlands in 2000 and from that moment on had nothing but respect for him and knew that a special gift had been given to me.

    It has been too many months now and I am not sure that his family will see this. If so, my heart is broken today and I can only hope that yours have been and will continue to be held gently and lovingly by all those who knew Jeff.

    My deepest condolences,
    Susan Wolff