Ieoh Ming Pei was born in China in 1917, the son of a prominent banker. At age 17 he came
to the United States to study architecture, and received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from MIT in 1940. Upon graduation he was awarded the Alpha Rho Chi Medal, the MIT Traveling Fellowship, and the AIA Gold Medal.
In 1942, Pei enrolled in the Harvard Graduate School of Design where he studied under Walter Gropius; six months later, he volunteered his services to the National Defense Research Committee in Princeton. Pei returned
to Harvard in 1944 and completed his M.Arch in 1946, simultaneously teaching on the faculty as an assistant professor (1945–48). Awarded the Wheelwright Traveling Fellowship by Harvard in 1951, he traveled extensively
in England, France, Italy and Greece. I. M. Pei became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1954.
In 1948, William Zeckendorf invited Mr. Pei to accept the newly created post of Director of
Architecture at Webb & Knapp, a real estate development corporation, resulting in many large-scale architectural and planning projects across the country. In 1955, with Henry N. Cobb and Eason H. Leonard, he formed the partnership of I. M. Pei &
Associates, which became I. M. Pei & Partners in 1966, and Pei Cobb Freed & Partners in 1989.
Mr. Pei retired from active involvement in the firm's partnership in 1990. Between 1990 and 2006, Mr. Pei completed several additional projects with the firm (including the Four Seasons Hotel, New York; Museé d'Art Moderne, Luxembourg; Deutches Historisches Museum, Berlin; and the Miho Museum, Japan).
Pei's personal architectural style blossomed with his design for the National Center for
Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado (1961–67). He subsequently gained broad national attention with the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington (1968–78) and the
John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library
in Boston (1965-79) — two of some thirty institutional projects executed by Mr. Pei. Others include churches, hospitals, and municipal buildings, as well as schools, libraries, and over a dozen museums, most notably the
in Paris (1989).
Pei's deep interest in the arts and education is evidenced by his numerous memberships on Visiting Committees at Harvard and MIT, as well as on several governmental panels. He has also served on the AIA Task Force on
the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. A member of the AIA National Urban Policy Task Force and of the Urban Design Council of the City of New York, he was appointed to the National Council on the Humanities by President
Lyndon Johnson in 1966, and to the National Council on the Arts by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. In 1983, Mr. Pei was chosen the Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize: he used the $100,000 award to establish a
scholarship fund for Chinese students to study architecture in the United States (with the proviso that they return to China to practice their profession). Among the many academic awards bestowed on Mr. Pei are honorary
doctorates from Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, New York University, Brown University, the University of Colorado, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the American University of
Paris, and the University of Rome.
Mr. Pei is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a Corporate Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and has also been elected to the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Design, and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1975 he was elected to the American Academy itself, which is restricted to a lifetime
membership of fifty. Three years later he became Chancellor of the Academy, the first architect to hold that position, and served until 1980. Mr. Pei was inducted a "Membre de l'Institut de France" in 1984, and
decorated by the French government as a Commandeur in the "Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" in 1985. On July 4, 1986, he was one of twelve naturalized American citizens to receive the Medal of Liberty from President
Ronald Reagan. Two years later French president François Mitterrand inducted I. M. Pei as a Chevalier in the Légion d'Honneur; in November 1993 he was raised to Officier; and in May 2016 he was raised to Commandeur. Also in 1993 he was elected an Honorary
Academician of the Royal Academy of Arts in London. In 1997 the Académie d'Architecture de France elected him Foreign Member.
The many professional honors accorded to Mr. Pei include the Gold Medal for
Architecture of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects (both 1979); the Grande Médaille d'Or of the Académie d'Architecture de France (1981); the Pritzker
Architecture Prize (1983); the Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (2010); and the Gold Medal of the International Union of Architects (UIA; 2014). He was awarded the Medal of Freedom by
President George H. W. Bush in 1993 and received the Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1994 and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design
Museum in 2003.
See also Mr. Pei's Curriculum Vitae