It is hard to believe that it has been five years since I took this position in June 2017. I knew the career opportunity as AIA Virginia Executive Vice President was going to be special, but you honestly never know how great something will be until you immerse yourself in it. As I look back over my tenure, we built something magnificent together that I know will live on in future seasons of leadership.

This role has afforded me the privilege to meet so many of our approximate 2,500 members around the Commonwealth. I have seen the great work that you are producing and how you are shaping your community as architects and designers. I have recruited many of you who are too talented to sit on the sidelines to serve on various committees to move AIA Virginia forward in a beautiful way.

There is so much that I am proud of as I put this pen down for the final time.

Let’s start with the People. Without them, accomplishments whether big or small are not possible. Let me take a moment to highlight the powerful staff team at AIA Virginia. All I can say is small but mighty. Our body of work is on par with the biggest states in the AIA and our staff is half the size.

You may ask, “how did we do that?

It is from a servant leadership mentality that we have for each other blended with a relentless pursuit of self-improvement. We all bought into that system and what you see is what you have received. If I could take a moment to brag about them, each one is growing beyond what they had ever envisioned for themselves ranging from obtaining a Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential to completing college degrees to speaking at national conferences! I am so thankful for each one of our staff members that I have worked with both past and present.

To the six presidents I have had the honor to get to know and who welcomed me as their business partners during their year of presidential leadership:

Bill Brown, AIA
Eric Keplinger, AIA
Rob Reis, AIA
Beth Reader, FAIA
Sean Reilly, AIA
Robert Easter, FAIA

What no one tells you when you take this role is how close of a relationship you form with your Presidents. And my is that true! As President of the Board, there are a lot of demands and expectations. It is truly a year of service and there are often defining moments where I am sure that they ask themselves what they got into. Every single one of these men and women not only survived but thrived in their year. And each of these individuals knows there is nothing that I would not do for them as they have become just like family members to me. And what they all have in common, though they are different and unique individuals, is that they have hearts of gold. And that is a prerequisite for a successful President because it is never about them. It’s about leading the organization to successful outcomes for the benefit of our membership.

And then there is a host of others where it would be impossible to name but you know who you are. You may feel like your contribution was not large. But let me tell you, regardless of the size or breadth of your support, it moved us forward.

When I think about my most proud moments, it is really difficult to narrow it down to a simple newsletter article. So, I boiled it down to a couple of overarching themes:

  • Our relevancy as architects and the profession of architecture to the general public and our state and local leaders has grown exponentially in the last five years. Today, we are now invited to present on the built environment to organizations that support mayors, local elected officials, procurement professionals, and members of the General assembly. We have truly become a go-to source that is credible, knowledgeable, and authentic. Architects SPEAK UP!, our community dinners and transformation of the Political Action Committee (which has literally grown tenfold in my tenure and would not be possible if you all did not believe in our advocacy work) have allowed us to do that.
  • A model of excellence in our continuing education through our signature events. We continue to bring you the most prolific domestic and internationally acclaimed architects for design inspiration. Many times, you must go to New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago to see the names that we bring to you right here in Virginia.
  • Continuing to invest and cultivate our next generation of leaders. We have shifted the model of our nationally respected Emerging Leaders in Architecture (ELA) program to a “for us, by us” model. This legacy program is now run and executed by its alumni. Now with over 200 graduates, the impact that these men and women are making in the world is unmatched. Our Operation: Reach, Retain, and Develop mentorship program with AIAS National was cobbled together quickly during the pandemic for temporary purposes and has now blossomed into a value-soaked program that I suspect will be around for years to come.
  • We became a model of a strong and growing nonprofit. Over the course of my tenure, we really had to change our financial practices as an organization. That takes confidence and courage from the Board to have trust in the various strategies that were employed. Without going into great detail, I am proud to say that today we are an organization with a financial reserves balance that aligns with that of non-profit best practices. We have retooled our governance structure to one that allows it to be more efficient and effective while opening the door of inclusivity to so many members who have a desire to serve. That was hard work, but we did it!

So, as I bring this to a close, the work as Executive Vice President is never done. You could serve for 20 years and still feel like there is more to be accomplished. But there is a season for everything. And as this particular season comes to a close, a new one will flourish and the organization will be taken to even greater heights. I am excited to take this body of work that we have accomplished together and explore how it can be scaled for national impact in my next season. Remember that I am still an AIA Virginia member and I look forward to reuniting with so many of you at the signature events.

I am wishing all of you many blessings and prosperity. Until next time.

In service,

R. Corey Clayborne, FAIA, NOMA, MBA, CAE
Executive Vice President