February 16, 2022

Remembering Frances M. "Franny" Shloss (B.Arch. '45), 1923–2022

From uniquely challenging beginnings as an architecture student to her enduring dedication to her alma mater, AAP remembers Franny Shloss by her legacy of determination, generosity, and her artist's soul.

by Patti Witten

Frances Shloss at the Cornell class of 1945 reunion in 2015 with her watercolor paintings on display in the John Hartell Gallery. photo / William Staffeld


On February 11, 2022 beloved and respected benefactor and trailblazing architect Frances M. Shloss died at 98 in Beverly Hills, California.

Shloss received her architecture degree from what was then called the Cornell College of Architecture, a five-year program she completed in three years during WWII. She went on to make drawings for Navy battleships and worked on design plans for some of the first American shopping malls. Her later philanthropic contributions to the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP) included support for Sibley Hall beautification, the Mui Ho Fine Arts Library construction, a food truck at AAP named in her honor, and the creation of the Frances Shloss studio space on the third floor of East Sibley Hall.

Born on June 8, 1923, Shloss's youthful interest in drawing and watercolor painting continued throughout her life. She was accepted to Cornell as an architecture student in 1941 and learned the practice of drawing plans with a pencil, paper, T-square, and triangles, though according to a profile in the AAP Alumni Archive, Shloss's favorite classes were art studios — "anything that had to do with painting or drawing," she said. She continued to take painting classes late in life.

At the intense pace of academics during the war years, female students at Cornell faced the unique and formidable challenges of social propriety and implicit bias that their male counterparts did not. In an article for Architect Magazine, Dean Yoon shared a story Franny passed on to her that to complete their assignments on time, Shloss and her women classmates hid in the roof gutter of White Hall to avoid guards enforcing their early curfew.

"Franny's importance to the college and the ​field of architecture cannot be overstated," says AAP Dean J. Meejin Yoon. "Stalwart in her commitment to serving the country and society, Franny studied architecture during WWII and had the added challenge of working around barriers women students faced at the time. ​She not only pushed through and past the inequities of her particular generation, ​she brought strength, directness, and even humor to all she engaged. I am personally grateful for her ​steadfast dedication and determination, ​as well as the decades of her support for ​the college and the education of generations of architects."


Left: memorabilia from Shloss's freshman year, 1941. image / courtesy Cornell University Carl A. Kroch Library Library Rare & Manuscript Collection. Right: Shloss with former AAP Dean Kent Kleinman and the blueprint of Shloss's first architectural project — her family's home in Iowa. photo / Serena Savino


As a student, Shloss was active in student associations and war effort committees. After graduating, she held goodwill toward her classmates and professors throughout her life and career, volunteering as a 65th and 70th reunion campaign member, remaining the Class of 1945 Treasurer from 2013.

Post-graduation, Shloss achieved the rank of lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol and taught navigation and meteorology to cadets. After the war ended, she moved to New York City, where she found work in an architect's office at what is today the Essex House on 57th Street. In 1948, she returned to her hometown in Iowa and worked on apartments, schools, and movie houses for various architecture firms. Shloss moved to California in 1961 and settled in the firm of Victor Gruen, an architect credited with designing the first shopping malls. At Victor Gruen Associates, she participated in the design process, from coordinating master plans to selecting materials. Shloss was a member of the AIA Los Angeles chapter and was self-employed between 1978–87 until she retired. In retirement, she devoted her time to painting, to her church, and to tutoring second and third graders in her local community.

Shloss also remained dedicated to the AAP community, providing a gift to support Franny's food truck designed by students that opened in 2014 and remains in the Jason and Clara Seley Sculpture Court. Later, her $1.3M gift to the college enabled East Sibley Hall's third-floor conversion to the Frances Shloss Studio designed by New York City–based architects LEVENBETTS, which also opened in 2014. The renovation coincided with the Fine Arts Library's move from Sibley Hall to Rand Hall next door. Shloss helped fund the Rand Hall renovations and construction of the Mui Ho Fine Arts Library, which opened in 2019.

A collection of Shloss's scrapbooks is housed in the Cornell University Carl A. Kroch Library Library Rare & Manuscript Collection


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