As 2021 comes to a close, I first want to express my gratitude to our members for the many unique contributions and excellent work you all have accomplished this year.  Each of you makes a difference in improving the lives of people and communities we serve through your work. Thank you for being members of the American Institute of Architects, which now has over 95,000 members. 

Shared Heritage

Thank you for believing in the AIA, the collective voice of our profession in our state, our country, and around the world.  The AIA has come a long way from its humble, 1857 founding when 13 architects gathered in New York. The AIA in Virginia has come a long way too since 1914 when five men rode their horses to meet in Richmond and form an AIA chapter. Hard to imagine the challenges faced during their first two decades; impacted by World War I, the Spanish Flu, and the Great Depression. The Founders’ steadfastness may have had something to do with the conviction of their shared vision for what the profession could become; that the profession could have more impact united as a collective group.  That, as a united group they could better promote the profession, advance the standards of architectural education, practice and in turn, be of ever-increasing value to society.  Our shared heritage still unites our profession today.

2021 in Review:  AIA Virginia Activities

We’ve all had our thirst quenched by a well we did not dig.  AIA Virginia today is part of a continuum with core values and a vision that empowers its members to improve the quality of people’s lives and the built environment through their work.  AIA Virginia’s Mission guides our organization’s work toward our vision.  The heavy lifting of the mission is carried out by the Board of Directors and our four councils, which are populated with board members from around the Commonwealth and staff liaisons.  The organization’s finances are healthy and recent governance changes will enable us to move forward with efficiency and inclusivity; presided over by the treasurer and secretary respectively. Here are a few highlights of 2021 AIA Virginia activities:

Advocacy Advisory Council

  • The level of membership support in the AIA Virginia PAC has increased six-fold since 2016 allowing us to significantly extend our influence and relationship building with state lawmakers.
  • One notable General Assembly success:  we defeated a bill that would have given the Governor unilateral authority to issue architectural licenses regardless of education, experience, or examination requirements. 
  • Launched the inaugural ARCHITECTS Speak Up! Initiative.  Over 50 AIA members participated and built relationships with members of the House and Senate.  

Education Council

  • As envisioned by the AIA Virginia Strategic Plan, we collaborated with the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) and Associated General Contractors (AGC) on the Architecture Engineering Construction Symposium in March. 
  • We planned and organized our Biennial business symposium, Art of Practice, held virtually in August with 70 attendees, with program content on emerging technologies, trends in risk management and decarbonization and the latest developments in employment law. 
  • Our annual conference, Architecture Exchange East, was held virtually last month with thought provoking speakers and outstanding program content curated under the umbrella of “Making Space:  Designing for Inclusion.”  

Member Services Council

  • Mentoring continues as a key element of Member Services, evolving from the pandemic. Operation:  Reach, Retain and Develop, initiated in 2020, continues with a second year into 2021-2022. 
  • For the second consecutive year, The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design has graciously sponsored our Amber Book Scholarship program for ARE prep.
  • We welcomed 125 new members in 2021, bringing total membership to 2,365 as of October 1, 2021.  

Outreach Council

  • Conducted the 2021 Design Awards, which incorporated the “Framework for Design Excellence” into submission criteria; added Small Project and Extended Use Categories. 
  • Continued to produce the digital version of Inform regularly to bring forth exceptional curated content to members and our external audiences.
  • Resumed AIA Virginia’s “Blueprint for Better Communities Dinner” series in September at VIA Design in Norfolk after being temporarily suspended due to the pandemic.
  • Continued our commitment to strengthen the pipeline to our profession through our special and important relationship with the Virginia Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects.


It is good governance practice to evaluate Board structure and efficiency periodically in order to remain vital and relevant as a membership association.  The Secretary’s Advisory Committee (SAC) engaged a series of charges in 2020 to make recommendations on moving forward. In June 2021, the membership voted to implement the first phase of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee’s recommendations, which decoupled service on the four advisory Councils from Board service.  As a result, the Advisory Councils for Advocacy, Education, Outreach, and Members Services are open to all members as a service opportunity, of up to nine members in each.  In November 2021, after extensive outreach and discussion with local chapters, the membership voted to implement the second and final phase of the SAC recommendations which streamlines the size of the Board to better align with non-profit best practices.

In summary, between the Board and Councils, there will now be 50 opportunities to serve and advance the mission of AIA Virginia.

AIA Virginia Staff

I am deeply grateful for AIA Virginia’s amazingly dedicated, hard-working staff who were collaborative partners in the work of the 2021 Board. They are incredible people and a joy to work with.  AIA Virginia is very fortunate to have this group:

  • Rhea George, Hon. AIA Virginia, Managing Director
  • Cathy Guske, Hon. AIA Virginia, Member Services Director
  • Keesha Ezell, Hon. AIA Virginia, Director of Finance
  • Jody Cranford, Sales Representative

I can’t say enough about our EVP, Corey Clayborne, FAIA.  He is a visionary, regularly looking toward the future and at the same time, able to focus on detailed tasks and their successful execution. He is passionate and driven about improving the AIA to better serve our members and is also a humble person and amazing team player.  A true servant leader, we are very fortunate to have Corey as our EVP.

Moving Forward

Thank you to all AIA Virginia members for the incredible opportunity to serve as your 2021 president. It has been an honor and a privilege.

I will soon hand over the reins of leadership to my friend and colleague Robert Easter, FAIA.  Robert is an accomplished architect and educator, running his Richmond-based practice and serving as Chair of the Architecture program at Hampton University. Robert has been serving on the board as Hampton University’s Director for many years and is a past president of NOMA National.   Robert is also currently serving as chair of our Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee.  AIA Virginia leadership will be in thoughtful and experienced hands in 2022.

AIA Virginia members come from varied backgrounds and have many different perspectives.  Yet, we are united by a shared heritage and shared values.  We are united by a shared vision to make a difference in the quality of the built environment and the lives of all people who experience our collective work, not just the 2% that are our clients.  In this challenging era that we live and work in, one often marked by differences, we are called to work together with justice and understanding, to encourage and build each other up.  It is our call within the call…. let us move forward with expectancy and hope to create the future of the profession we want to see. 

Sean E. Reilly, AIA
AIA Virginia President

AIA Virginia 2021 Board

  • Ryan Alkire
  • Krystal Anderson
  • JW Blanchard
  • Karen Conkey
  • Corey Clayborne
  • Phoebe Crisman
  • Bob Dunay
  • Robert Easter
  • Rebecca Edmunds
  • Eliza Beth Engle
  • Forrest Frazier
  • Kathy Galvin
  • Bill Hopkins
  • Christopher Kehde
  • Spencer Lepler
  • Anca Lipan
  • Jeremy Maloney
  • Beth Reader
  • Sean Reilly
  • Mitch Rowland
  • Maury Saunders
  • Nick Serfass
  • Michael Spory
  • Stephen Wakeman
  • Chris Warren
  • Rob Winstead