Veronica Nia Dorian Becnel, community activist, preservationist, and college professor, was born in Houston, Texas, on October 24, 1949. Her mother was Imelda Dorian, but she was raised by her grandparents, Lee Dorian, Sr., and Mazy Dorian. Veronica grew up in the Acres Homes community of Houston, and she received her early education in Houston public schools. She graduated from M. C. Williams High School in 1967. From there she went on to pursue the B.A. and the M.A. degrees in architecture from the University of Houston (UH). Veronica Dorian married Edwin Robert Becnel on May 26, 1979. They had a daughter and a son.
She was hired by her alma mater in 1985 in the College of Architecture to direct the preservation studies program. During her tenure at UH, much of her efforts were devoted to documenting, preserving, and interpreting the African-American cultural heritage of Texas, including the slave-built structures on the Legg-Ervin Plantation near Nacogdoches, and the relocation of African-American-constructed buildings from Liberty County, Texas, to the plantation and ranch museum at Baylor University. During the 1988–89 school year, Becnel oversaw the reconstruction of the Reis log cabin on the campus of Kolter Elementary School in Houston. Becnel’s research effort focused on tracing the “continuities between West African ornamental design and building typologies and those of Texas and the southern United States.”
Becnel was an activist both on and off the campus of UH. While still a student, she was one of the founding members of the University Black Alumni Association. She also helped to organize Shape Community Center. When Becnel became a professor, she continued in the same activist role. She was a member and former chair of the University Undergraduate Admission Review Committee, a member of the University Undergraduate Council, and president of the Black Leadership Network. In the larger Houston community, she served on the Houston Archeological and Historical Commission. Becnel also served on the boards of the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance, the Acres Home Community Development Corporation, Diverse Works Artspace, and the Rice Design Alliance. She was instrumental in the organization of the Freedmen’s Town, Fourth Ward Neighborhood Association in an effort to preserve this historic community from disappearance via urban renewal.
Veronica Nia Dorian Becnel suffered a stroke and died in Houston at St. Joseph’s Hospital on November 10, 1990. She was buried alongside her grandparents in the Dorian family plot at Paradise North Cemetery in the Acres Homes community of Houston.