During the late 1970's, John T. Lyle (1934-1998), a Cal Poly Pomona landscape architecture professor, challenged graduate students to envision a community in which daily activities were based on the value of living within the limits of available renewable resources without environmental degradation.
During the next ten years, students and faculty researched the possibilities of creating a community that made use of on-site resources, operated with renewable energy, and worked with biologically based processes.
Influenced and inspired by emerging design philosophies, several Cal Poly Pomona faculty members formed an interdisciplinary team to design an institute that would offer a holistic and cooperative model of community development within the rigidly organized and hierarchical administrative structure of the university.
Curriculum development followed in line with the cooperative spirit of the project. A team of faculty members, chosen for their knowledge of, and commitment to the subject matter, undertook a participatory process for developing the curriculum that incorporated student feedback.
Building upon research and drawing on the knowledge of a wide range of experts from throughout the world, the team published a proposal and a preliminary design, and raised $4.3 million from private foundations. Ground was broken in 1992 for Phase I of the Center for Regenerative Studies, and the Center welcomed its first 20 full-time residents in early 1994.
On May 22, 1999, the Center was renamed The John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies, in honor of the founding project director.