In Remembrance: Robert S. Buford Jr. ’67 Died on February 18 2021

View full image

Robert Strother “Rob” Buford Jr. died on February 18, 2021, from Parkinson's disease, at his home in New York City with his beloved wife, Barbara Iason, by his side. Rob loved his two wonderful children (by his first wife, Kathleen Lee Buford): Lucy Buford Ricca and her husband Robert and William Butler Buford and his wife Huey-Ting Sun. He adored his grandchildren: Kevin and Ryan Ricca and Ramona Buford. He cherished, and was cherished by, his siblings Lewis Burwell Buford (Sandy), Algernon Sidney Buford, and Molly Pollard Buford; as well as his nieces and nephew. Rob was lovingly cared for by Quincy Fletcher, Debby Vincent, and Carren Serrette.

Rob was born on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1945, in Richmond, Virginia, the first son of Robert Strother Buford and Mary Pollard Buford, both of whom predeceased him. He graduated in 1963 as salutatorian from St. Christopher's School in Richmond, and then from Yale University in 1967 with a BA in English. After Yale, he enlisted in the Officer Candidate School of the US Army and served in Vietnam as a first lieutenant. Returning home, he enrolled in Columbia University in New York and obtained his master's in architecture in 1972. Rob was awarded a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to study German Expressionist architecture in Darmstadt, Germany, from 1972 to 1973. After teaching architecture at the University of Virginia, he opened his own architecture firm and designed residential projects in Charlottesville. In 1984, Rob returned to New York to work with Robert A. M. Stern Architects, where he became managing partner. He continued with Stern until his retirement in 2010, contributing to the firm's internationally renowned work, including two residential colleges at his alma mater, Yale University, and Euro Disney.

Rob was always one to take advantage of opportunities afforded him and was able to travel around the world, initially as a "one-man" tour group after college with a Eurail Pass and Youth Hostel accommodations; then as a soldier in Southeast Asia; and finally with his Barbara throughout Europe, India, and the Caribbean, among other places. Barbara tells of an occasion in India where she was concerned that Rob had gotten lost in a large crowd and when she finally located him, he was moving haphazardly in a manner that concerned her. As it turned out, the crowd was an Indian wedding in Indian tradition and Rob was dancing with the wedding party as it moved along to the ceremony! He loved the cultural life of the great New York City. Top on his list was his love for the Buford Cottage in Gloucester Banks on the Mighty York River, where he spent many, many summers from his preteen years until just several years before his death. In spite of Gloucester Banks being described by many as the hottest place on God's green earth, Barbara still married him and was happily by his side whenever they had the opportunity to visit "The Rivah." His passions, in addition to his greatest passion—his family, were sailing, music, and reading his favorite book, A Dance to the Music of Time. One of his siblings categorized Rob and his brothers and sister thusly: Molly was the beauty, Sidney was the redneck, Lewis was the Yuppie, and Rob was the scholar and Renaissance man. Indeed, he was.

Rob was a gentle soul, and this world was a better place when he walked among us. He was a good man and we loved him. We are diminished by his passing.

Those wishing to honor Rob's memory may make a contribution in his name to the Parkinson's Foundation or the Southern Poverty Law Center.

—Submitted by the family.

1 remembrance

  • Harry Hull III
    Harry Hull III, 3:06pm May 07 2022 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Rob was the sort of guy, even in our shortest gladdest years of life, who embodied a quiet integrity, intelligence and humor, and as a member of the southern contingent in our group of roommates, aka the Punt Club (all came from Richmond, VA, I think), embodied to me the essence of a Southern gentleman in the best, non-racist way possible: considerate, charming, unpretentious. I remember that he clearly loved--and defended!--his roots in Richmond; but as time would tell, ended up living most if not all of his adult life in the northeast. He had what by any measure was a very distinguished career. By the time I reconnected with him (see below), he was a rising star at Robert A.M. Stern Architects, eventually becoming Managing Partner keeping the operation humming along.

    As is common, I think, after graduation and the distractions of the Vietnam War (both Rob and I did stints in the military after graduation), we didn't really reconnect until quite a few years later when I found myself visiting NYC from time to time to attend trade shows for my wee business. I began to look up Rob as well as Coles Phinizy, another Berkeley roommate) with each visit to NYC and found, happily, that our friendships "formed at Yale" were alive and well. Our routine was to gather for a meal or two at some great but relatively undiscovered neighborhood restaurant and catch up on our lives;

    The only '67 reunions I've attended were the 25th and 50th, and Rob (and Coles) were also in attendance. In fact, for our 50th, Gail and I stayed with Rob & Barbara in their NYC apartment before coming up to New Haven by train. That reunion was, alas, the last time I saw Rob, and though he was beginning to decline from Parkinson's, he was a stalwart trooper, as always, and our “Punt Club” comrades all enjoyed some great meals together during that wonderful long weekend. And as I also mentioned before, Rob, even though then retired from Stern, was closely involved in the official introductions to alumni/ae to Franklin and Murray Colleges which at the time were in the final stages of completion. I remember him being very proud of the result, the sort of period architecture that R.A.M. Stern Architects excelled in.

    Rob will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

Post a remembrance