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Richard W Willson

May 16, 1956 - December 5, 2022

Service Information

Mount Sinai Simi Valley - Kamenir Chapel

6150 Mount Sinai Drive

Simi Valley, CA 93063

Service Date
December 11, 2022
Service Time
10:00 am
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Richard William Willson, PhD. FAICP
May 16, 1956- December 6, 2022
Richard William Willson, beloved and devoted husband, father, grandfather, teacher, mentor, friend, painter, poet,
musician, spirited intellectual and deep soul has tragically departed after a sudden cardiac arrest while jogging. Rick is
survived by his wife Robin D. Scherr of 37 years, by daughters Jenna Millican (Ross) and Maya Scherr-Willson,
grandsons Rhys and Callum Millican, and brother Ian Willson.
Rick grew up in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, the son of William Anthes Willson and Jean Stokes McLean, and sibling
to Katherine and Ian. He graduated in 1978 from the School of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of
Waterloo with a Bachelor of Environmental Studies. He worked for the Essex County Planning Department in the
Windsor region as a municipal planner in southwestern Ontario. Although he moved to Los Angeles in 1981 to pursue
graduate studies, he maintained lifelong meaningful connections with Canadian friends.
Rick received a Master of Planning from the University of Southern California in 1983. There he met Robin, initiating
a 41-year love affair. After graduation, he worked for William C. Lawrence Co. and with The Community
Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles. An offer to be an associate professor at California Polytechnic
University, Pomona (CPP) in 1986 captured his imagination, and he accepted the challenge. Rick received his Ph.D.
in Urban Planning at UCLA in 1991, specializing in urban transportation policy.
Over Rick’s 37-year career at CPP, he served as Professor and Chair of the Department of Urban and Regional
Planning and interim dean of the College of Environmental Science. He worked to link planning scholarship and
practice, exploration that in later years was influenced by his engagement with Jewish wisdom. He was active in
teaching and research, collaboration across disciplines, academic leadership, mentoring, and service. Rick was
instrumental in establishing the Dale Prize for Excellence in Urban and Regional Planning, which recognizes scholars
and practitioners in emerging trends in planning.
Rick is the author of Reflective Planning Practice, Theory, Cases and Methods (2021), A Guide for the Idealist: Launching and
Navigating Your Planning Career (2018) and developed the American Planning Association Blog Series, Launching Your
Planning Career: A Guide for Idealists. Rick was also an expert on transportation planning, parking supply and
management, and climate change planning. His 2013 book Parking Reform Made Easy provides a method for reforming
minimum parking requirements. Parking Management for Smart Growth (2015) provides a strategic approach to parking
management in the context of a sharing economy. In 2015 Rick received CPP’s Provost Award for Excellence in
Research and Creative Activity.
Rick also maintained a transportation consulting practice with public agencies and developers of urban infill projects.
He was appointed to the Zoning Advisory Committee for re:code LA in 2013. For seven years, he advised the city’s
effort to overhaul Los Angeles’s zoning code.
Rick leaves a remarkable and expansive legacy as a teacher and mentor to thousands of students and peers. He held
visiting professorships at various universities. In early November, Rick was a presenting author at the Association of
Collegiate School of Planning Annual Conference in Toronto on the topic of Deliberate-Decide-Discuss: Flipping Case
Study Learning with a Practical Judgment Simulation. Just last week Rick was supposed to present to Fellows in MIT’s
Special Program for Urban and Regional Studies. He served as long-term advisor to the Transportation Research
Board’s Minority Student Fellows Program.
Rick embraced Robin’s Jewish faith and converted to Judaism in 2001. The Scherr-Willson family has pursued a life
consistent with the concept of Tikkun Olam– actions to repair and improve the world. They raised their daughters
Jenna and Maya to be curious, independent, courageous. Rick sustained a meaningful religious life as a member of
B’nai Jeshurun Synagogue of New York City, Ohr HaTorah Synagogue, and a local family havurah.
Rick valued personal growth and self-discovery. As an intrepid seeker of truth, justice, beauty, and love, he cultivated
a profound and durational creative practice through painting, sketching, poetry, songwriting, and playing music. He
was co-founder of the Mt. Washington Plein Air Painters. Participating for years in the Arroyo Arts Collective
Discovery Tour, Rick also exhibited in group and solo shows. He was nourished by trips with his friends to hike,
canoe or be just plain silly. Rick tended to his garden while enjoying the vistas from his hillside home. At the age of
40 he became a disciplined marathon runner, completing the LA Marathon 23 times.
Rick displayed his love fiercely and without restraint. He connected easily to people of all ages and backgrounds and
brought intentionality to his interactions. Rick was proud and supportive of his daughters and relished the
relationships cultivated in their adulthood. He especially cherished the moments he spent with his grandsons who
brought him immense delight and laughter. Rick will be remembered for bringing joy to all who knew him through
his unique sense of humor, lightness of being, and funky dance moves.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday December 11, 2022 at 10 AM at Mount Sinai’s Simi Valley location. The
service will be broadcast live and recorded via webcam. In lieu of flowers, the family is grateful for contributions to
the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, EcoAgriculture Partners, The Center for Reproductive Rights and JDC.

With great sadness, we share that Richard W. Willson, loving husband, father, grandpa, friend & teacher tragically passed away on December 6. Rick suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while on a jog.

A memorial service will be held for Rick at 10am on Sunday, December 11 at Mount Sinai’s Simi Valley location. We hope you can join us.

Mount Sinai Simi Valley 6150 Mount Sinai Drive, Simi Valley, CA 93063

The service will also be live streamed and recorded for guests who cannot attend: (Service Pin: 933-146)

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to one of the following charities close to Rick’s heart: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society –

EcoAgriculture Partners-

The Center for Reproductive Rights –



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