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Willie Pena '42, WWII Hero And Pioneering Architect, Dies At 99

Scot Walker '90 February 12, 2018 8:07 AM updated: May 16, 2018 3:59 PM

Willie Peña '42, an Aggie hero of World War II who later became known as "the father of architectural programming," passed away Sunday, the day after his 99th birthday. 

After graduating from Texas A&M in 1942, Peña was commissioned into the U. S. Army. He served in the European Theater with the 28th Infantry and was involved in the Battle of Huertgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Liberation of Colmar. He was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart and retired from the Army in 1947 as a captain.

Peña is one of five Aggies featured in Texas Aggies Go To War, an exhibit that opened in 2014 at the Bastogne War Museum in Belgium. The interactive exhibit commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge through the stories of five Aggies who fought in that battle, including Peña. In late 2016, a scaled-down version of the exhibit debuted on the Texas A&M campus.

After the war, he earned another degree from A&M and then joined the architecture firm of Caudill Rowlett Scott. He would become known as "the father of architectural programming," and the American Institute of Architects elevated him to AIA Fellow in 1972 in recognition of his contributions.

He was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the A&M College of Architecture in 1998 and Distinguished Alumnus of the university in 2015. He endowed the William Merriweather Peña Scholarship in the A&M College of Architecture to benefit deserving students with financial need. It was the largest gift in the college's history.

In December 2016, Princess Astrid of Belgium presented him the country's second highest order of chivalry, the Commander in the Order of the Crown, in a ceremony in Texas A&M’s Rudder Theatre. Read that story here.

His full obituary from the Houston Chronicle can be found here

Peña's name will be called at Muster in 2018, as one of about 1,700 Aggies on the 2018 Worldwide Roll Call for the Absent. If you have lost an Aggie loved one since April 21, 2017, please visit to learn how to notify The Association of that person's passing, so we can ensure he or she is included on Roll Call. 

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