January 25, 2021

In Memoriam, William Behnke

The Knowlton School is saddened to report the passing away of William “Bill” A. Behnke. Bill graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Ohio State University in 1951. He enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a landscape architect, but his design for Cleveland’s inner harbor jump-started a rejuvenation of its lakefront, changing the way the city saw itself.

Bill Behnke was born in Willoughby, Ohio in 1924 and passed away in his hometown on November 24, 2020, at the age of 94. Bill is survived by his wife, Jean Daniel Behnke, children, William Lee (Cheryl) Behnke, Deborah (Frank) Tolar, Mitchel Behnke, and Mark (Patrice) Behnke, and many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

In 1956, Bill co-founded Behnke, Szunyog and Ness in Cleveland. In 1960, the firm transitioned to Behnke, Ness & Litten, to Behnke Associates, Inc. in 1970, and finally to Behnke Landscape Architecture in 2013. Since its founding, Behnke Landscape Architecture has won 14 national and over 40 state and regional awards.

Bill served on the Board of Directors of the Landscape Architecture Foundation from 1981–1985, and as President in 1983. He was a Fellow of the American Society Landscape Architects (ASLA), served as ASLA Vice President from 1977–1979, and President from 1980–1981. In 1983, Bill received the ASLA President’s Medal, an award given annually to one ASLA member in recognition of unselfish and devoted service to the national society.

In presenting the President’s Medal to Bill, outgoing ASLA president Theodore J. Wirth said,

Bill's dedication to the advancement of the profession and the society has been a continual inspiration to us all. This award is offered in special recognition of his outstanding accomplishments, which have contributed greatly to the growth of ASLA over the last decade.

In Ohio, Bill served as President of the Ohio State Board Landscape Architectural Examiners in 1973 and was a member of the Ohio Arts Council from 1983–1984.

In 1986, Bill established the William A. Behnke ’51 Associates, Inc. Minority Scholarship, which provides financial support to students who intend to major in landscape architecture at the Knowlton School and are members of officially recognized minority groups. In lieu of flowers, the Behnke family suggests contributions to the Heritage Club of Lake County YMCA, the Willoughby United Methodist Church Columbarium Fund, or the Behnke Minority Scholarship.


Donations to the William A. Behnke ’51 Associates, Inc. Minority Scholarship can be made on The Ohio State University Advancement website or by contacting Alumni Relations and Events Coordinator Louisa Morris.