The Echoes of Whitney M Young, Jr.

During his address to the 1968 AIA National Convention, civil rights leader Whitney M. Young, Jr. challenged the architectural profession to pursue more progressive values.

“One need only take a casual look at this audience to see that we have a long way to go in this field.”

“You are not a profession that has distinguished itself by your social and civic contributions to the cause of civil rights . . . You are most distinguished by your thunderous silence.”

Robert Easter in a purple shirt holding an architectural model encircled by 4 students

In 1972, the AIA established a national award in his memory. That award distinguishes an architect or organization that embodies social responsibility and actively addresses a relevant issue, such as affordable housing, inclusiveness, or universal access.

The 2023 Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award was bestowed upon Robert L. Easter, FAIA – a member and Past-President of AIAVA – in recognition of his enduring commitment to advancing those individuals who have traditionally been underrepresented in the profession of architecture.

On the 17th of February, during Black History Month, Virginia State Senator Ghazala Hashmi sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 373 in which the General Assembly commends Robert L. Easter, FAIA for having received that award. Read the resolution here: SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 373

I am convinced that Whitney M. Young, Jr.’s challenge still echoes. I am convinced that Robert L. Easter’s advocacy and activism was spawned, to some degree, in response to the echoes of Young’s challenge. I am convinced that there is an echo to be heard as a result of Easter’s actions. I am convinced that there are echoes emanating in response to those actions. I am convinced that we should not ignore those echoes. I am convinced that we can no longer feign deafness to those echoes.

Let us resolve to take the time – and the action – to encounter the great symphony of those echoes. To do what we can not only to amplify those who need to be afforded a voice, those whose voice demands attention, and those whose voice cries out for justice, but also to amplify those whose voice suggests a way to acknowledge injustice, to rectify wrongs, to prevent injustice, and to progress towards a more just and inclusive profession.

Let us be bold enough to listen to the echoes. And let us add our voices to that choir.

Paul Battaglia, AIA
Executive Vice President
AIA Virginia

Easter 2023 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award Honoree

Virginia member and immediate past president of the Board of Directors, Robert L. Easter, FAIA, has been awarded the 2023 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award by the American Institute of Architects. The award distinguishes an architect or architectural organization that embodies social responsibility and actively addresses a relevant issue, such as affordable housing, inclusiveness, or universal access. The Whitney M. Young Jr. Award is named for the civil rights activist who called out the lack of diversity in the profession and its silence on key issues during his 1968 address at the AIA annual convention. His remarks set in motion a series of initiatives intended to respond to his challenge.

From the AIA’s announcement:

Through his staunch advocacy and commitment to education, Robert L. Easter, FAIA, has continually proven himself to be a leader for all members of the profession who embody architecture’s progressive values and seek to shape our world for the better. Equally active in practice and the academy, Easter has embodied Whitney M. Young Jr.’s famous 1967 call to action, and he has worked tirelessly to ensure the profession becomes much more diverse and inclusive than he once found it.

Easter’s work to broaden diversity, equity, and inclusion began early in his career while he was a student at Virginia Tech. As a graduate student, he was instrumental in advancing a minority lecture series that introduced an overwhelmingly white design academy to the work of architects and planners of color. Later, while serving in the US Army Corps of Engineers as a senior instructor, he helped young officers with little design, math, or engineering backgrounds transition into the corps.

Following his service, Easter founded Kelso & Easter Architects in Richmond in 1983 and, shortly thereafter, was introduced to the National Association of Minority Architects (NOMA). NOMA recognized his energy and commitment, and Easter was swiftly elevated to serve in several of the organization’s national leadership positions, beginning with a three-year term as national secretary. In that role, he developed NOMA’s national newsletter, NOMANews, which still circulates today.

In 1992, he was elected to serve a two-year term as NOMA’s 15th president. During his tenure, he created the NOMA Council to recognize the extraordinary contributions its members have made to the profession. After forging an alliance with South Africa’s design community, Easter helped create a sister organization to NOMA there and traveled to Johannesburg to meet with its leadership, facilitate sessions with the South African Institute of Architects, and discuss terms for cooperative leadership. Additionally, Easter worked to advance critical research and documentation of African American architects in the U.S. and partnered with AIA and other organizations to establish AIA’s first diversity conference.

After nearly 30 years of practice, Easter returned to Hampton University, where he completed his undergraduate studies, to become chair of its architecture department. He inherited an excellent program that needed to adjust its professional direction, specifically to prepare students for their eventual licensure. In his nearly 15 years as chair, Easter has promoted licensure as the highest priority and responsibility for graduates, interweaving IDP and now AXP requirements into the professional practice curriculum. He has also secured funding for a lecture series that introduces students to renowned Black architects, and he leverages his relationships with peers to provide mentorship opportunities that help graduates become familiar with new professional environments.

In 2017, Easter was invited to attend the AIA Large Firm Roundtable/Dean’s Forum at Tulane University, where he made an impassioned plea to the firms leading the profession to embrace their social responsibility regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. Easter hosted the roundtable at Hampton University in 2019 and was asked to join its Diversity Task Force, where he penned a position paper that offered a foundational understanding of the challenges to diversifying the profession. He also connected the roundtable’s leadership to NOMA, igniting a dialogue on strategies firms could use to bolster their diversity profiles.

More recently, Easter shaped a proposal for the roundtable to better assist minority-serving institutions, particularly historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The impact of his work has been significant: Many of the roundtable’s firms have committed to partnering with HBCU programs and have changed their recruiting process. Additionally, the roundtable has entered into a memorandum of understanding with NOMA to support scholarships and sponsor K-12 outreach efforts.”

The Only Not Only

It is not lost on me that I am the first African American to serve as the President of AIA-Virginia. While I am extremely glad that it has never been a headline, a part of my introduction, or a justification for my holding the office, I do appreciate the historic significance of this opportunity. I must admit, though, that being a first is not something I have a lot of experience with. You see, all my life, I have followed in the footsteps of trailblazers who have suffered the slings and arrows of ‘firstendom’ to make it possible for my achievements to be unencumbered.

Robert Easter, FAIA

Even growing up, I had three siblings; one brother was the oldest and the other was the youngest, while my sister was the only girl. Me? I was in the middle. To give me a sense of uniqueness, a dear friend of my parents dubbed me the “only not only.” Being somewhat anonymous (or at least, tag-less) in my household left (as you can tell) a lasting imprint on my psyche, although I know my parents loved me.

My birth order was not my fault or my failing; just as our race, culture, creed, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation are not something that any of us get to choose. Most of us even inherited our religious affiliations. How we fit in the hearts and minds of others, however, is often weighted, fairly or unfairly, by those characteristics and attributes.

Throughout my tenure this year, I have tried to highlight the role that often overlooked and marginalized communities have played in design excellence. Obviously, I haven’t been able to mention everyone, and if you feel left out this year, believe me, I understand. It’s the story of my life. 

There are architects from Native and indigenous communities, Asian and Asian American communities, and European communities whose work could have been highlighted and who have worked to make architecture more enduring, impactful, and relevant to our social fabric. I am sorry that you were not included this year in my writings. I leave it to future editions of our newsletter and writers of greater reach and intellect to complete that which is just now being heralded. Please know that over the course of this year, you have been in my heart, just not on my keyboard.

I have tried to traverse the Commonwealth and hear all of the voices of our membership. Sadly, the only chapter that I missed was my own. (Someone being left out seems to follow me wherever I go.) Through that experience, I have learned about the many wonderful things our local components have accomplished and the service that our members are receiving and doing to improve the quality of our environment.

In my particular case, the limitation was simply a matter of time. My relegation to “only not only” status makes me sensitive to others feeling left out. So, as I close my tenure I ask you to forgive me if you feel un-included. I hope you have learned something about a community that you might otherwise not have given thought to. I hope you might be inspired to write your own story that will include a contribution you have made to the grand idea that is architecture.

This has been an enriching experience for me and I am grateful for the support you have given me during this year. I am grateful to the staff for their dedicated work, and to our members for their commitment to service. I look forward to Mitch’s term, and I hope that I have left you with enough “nagging curiosities” to keep you engaged in the wonderful work that is AIA Virginia.

Robert L. Easter, NOMAC, FAIA
2022 AIA Virginia President

Representation Matters

Many of us grew up studying the work of Cesar Pelli, the recently passed, Argentina-born architect who, from 1977-1989 served as the dean of the Yale School of Architecture. His transformative work includes the expansion of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, and the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles. During Hispanic Heritage Month, we pause to remember this great American architect and the countless thousands of our colleagues who share the Hispanic culture that adds to the vibrancy of our nation.

Robert Easter, FAIA

It reminds me that representation matters; cultural diversity is a strength worthy of celebration. Too many of our children watch images in the media that denigrate, marginalize and malign those who share their culture. Whether it is law enforcement tasked to restrain the free movement of immigrants by building cages and separating children from their parents, or politicians flying people across the country to make a statement, the images and the accompanying reports are heartbreaking and suggest a country that is losing its capacity to show compassion. The message that the young audience receives can only add to the trauma of life in these difficult times. We need to produce different visuals; the reality is that the communities that we live in were built by a myriad of creative thinkers who are solving critical issues related to sustainability, affordability, and resilience.

In June, we hosted the Design Forum devoted to Latin American designers, entitled “South is Up.” It was a wonderful introduction to the work of Smiljan Radic, Enrique Norton, Viviana Pena, Alberto Kalach, and Cazu Zegars and was marvelously steered by Juan Burke, a professor of architecture at the University of Maryland. I wish more of our members were able to see and hear the fascinating presentations about architecture that impacts culture, climate, and context.

Among my many architecture heroes is Dr. Carmina Sanchez del-Valle, a valued colleague at Hampton University and one of a few Latina educators acknowledged as an ACSA Distinguished Professor. Her impact on our students and our program has been extraordinary. There have been many who have contributed to the success of our profession, our communities, and our students.  Everardo Jefferson and Sara Caples of the New York form Caples and Jefferson lectured at Hampton University several years ago and continue to mentor our students and provided a source of inspiration for the women and Hispanic students in our program.

In AIA Virginia we have recently crossed the threshold of 2400 members, nearly 100 (less than 4%) of whom self-identify as Hispanic. They include firm principals like Kim Smith at VMDO, who has been a leader in design excellence with a focus on academic structures. Tony Dockery, the principal and owner of AGD Associates, LLC specializing in aviation. But there are countless others who are contributing to large and small firms across the Commonwealth.

In Kendall Nicholson’s article, “Where Are My People? Hispanic & Latinx in Architecture” published by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), we learn that the Hispanic population in the United States is approximately 18.5%, making them the largest minority community in our nation. They comprise 8.5% of the architecture professionals in our country. There are 20 accredited architecture programs at Hispanic Serving Institutions.

Our nation is embroiled in political and social unrest around the idea of ethnic and racial identity. I hope that the architecture community can provide some balance and civility to the discourse by reminding our profession and our nation that the genius of creation is the blend of human culture and experience, race and ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation that creates the unique and diverse fabric of America. Hispanic Heritage month, spanning September and October provides another opportunity for us to celebrate the influence of that diversity on our built environment. It provides an opportunity to teach young children that their dreams can become reality; that their contribution makes us all better. Because representation matters.

Robert L. Easter, NOMAC, FAIA
2022 AIA Virginia President


It isn’t often that you have the unique privilege of watching a superstar grow before your eyes, close-up and personal. I met one several years ago at a conference in Chicago. He had just been selected as what was then called, the Intern Development Advisor for the Commonwealth of Virginia. We quickly became close friends; he came to my office to introduce my employees to the IDP process and later came to Hampton University to share the nuances of the IDP with my students. He and his amazing wife became supporters of our program and efforts to advance opportunities for them in our profession. I tried to hire him, but he turned me down and, instead, took a position with AIA Virginia.

Robert Easter, FAIA

Later, he convinced me that I should get involved in the leadership of AIA Virginia, and after I succumbed to his prodding, he soon afterward shared that he was ‘moving on up to the east side.” Yes, R. Corey Clayborne has been a superstar in the making from the moment I met him. To borrow a verse of the Bible, “eyes have not seen, nor ears heard, neither has it entered into the hearts of humanity, what God has prepared for [Corey].”

I didn’t want to wish him well before he left us, because, with each passing day, I hoped that he would change his mind and continue his journey with AIA Virginia, at least for as long as I had this role. But truth be told, Corey is destined for stardom, because he is a man of vision, passion, and leadership that should be allowed to grow and impact as large an audience as possible. At AIA, he has a platform that will allow the work he has done in Virginia to touch more lives and influence our profession and our organization to a higher level of service and responsiveness.

So with this month’s newsletter, I want to give Corey a presidential farewell for a job well done and offer the wishes of our state component that he achieves the success and fulfillment associated with his massive potential to do good and great things. We have been well served by Corey, and his service has provided him with a stepping-stone to do more and better.

AIA Virginia will continue to flourish because we are blessed with talented and capable leadership at every level, and in every component.  No other state can boast that they have a Helene Dreiling, FAIA to fill the gap and help us discover the next superstar. She was at the helm when we found the last one!

We are going to miss Corey’s involvement at AIA Virginia. On behalf of the AIA Virginia, I wish my dear friend and brother, along with Sara and their two children, great days, months, and years ahead. Our only demand is that he never ceases being a superstar in servant leadership. We are proud of you.

Robert L. Easter, NOMAC, FAIA
2022 AIA Virginia President


June is Pride Month. It is a time to remember the movements and celebrate the achievements toward social justice for our LGBTQ colleagues. We at the American Institute of Architects – Virginia must join that memorialization and celebration. Movements are often born out of struggle, riot, and revolution. Pride month commemorates the struggle for freedom and justice denied a segment of our population whose history includes the Stonewall riots, as well as demonstrations in large cities across the country. Today, there are still efforts to restrict bathroom use, politicize scholastic sports, determine who has equal access to health care and upend marriage equality.

Robert Easter, FAIA

When I was president of NOMA, the AIA held its first Diversity Conference. Organizations representing architects and designers of color, and women, including those who were gay and lesbian were invited by Jean Barber, the AIA’s Director for Diversity to plan a three-day conference focused on the issues impacting the many and varied interests of these communities. That conference highlighted me. The fact that injustice and bigotry imposed on any one segment of our national family is injustice imposed on us all.

We’ve done little to distinguish ourselves as full proponents of equal justice for all; our personal biases and political affiliations often lead us to marginalize our colleagues for simply being themselves. My faith teaches me that all are created by an intelligent Being who created our diversity and who delights in our multiplicity. It was that Creator who first displayed a rainbow as a symbol of divine love for all of humankind.

Our nation was born out of a struggle for freedom. At the same time, it has prospered through division and subjugation. For people of color, people of various religious backgrounds, and people of differing sexual orientations, that struggle has been real and each community is often left to fight their battle alone. As we learn more about each other’s struggles, I hope that we also learn to work together to tear down the boundaries that restrict access to the opportunities that our profession offers.

Architecture has the tremendous potential to bring life-affirming change to communities. When we seek to understand those who live in the communities we are charged to impact, our design work can give a voice to the unheard, hope to the helpless, and understanding to those who feel unseen. Architecture can make a difference when architects choose to be catalysts for just change.

I hope that we will listen and open our hearts as our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer colleagues will help us define the parameters where we are truly advocates for justice. Every American is constitutionally guaranteed this protection and, every architect deserves no less.

Robert Easter, FAIA
AIA Virginia President

Let’s Make Some Noise

There has been some pushback from members who are perplexed at the emphasis being placed by our Institution on issues of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.  In this polarized environment, some believe that any mention or effort to celebrate one community over another or to acknowledge past injustices in our society is unwarranted and pits one group over another.  I realize that in my capacity as President, I represent the entire membership; that we form a broad coalition of every ethnic, gender, faith-based, stripe of multiple national origins and sexual identities.  It is my goal, this year, to celebrate the uniqueness of our membership in all of its splendor. 

Robert Easter, FAIA

But I have to be clear that acknowledgment of some contributions is long overdue.  Whitney Young, in 1968, said that the architectural profession had distinguished itself for its silence in addressing the social inequities experienced by racial minorities in our country.  The AIA response was the creation of an award named after him.  And more silence. In the 54 years since that address, little has changed.  In 1968, two percent of our professional licensees were African American. Today, it is still two percent.

Enrollment in our accredited programs has become more diverse. Increased numbers of women and persons of color and members of multiple ethnic and racial communities are being realized in most schools across the country.  But our profession is still indistinguishable from its silent past. 

The letters we have received expressing outrage and discomfort about the emphasis being placed on issues of social justice by our Institute, nationally and within our state, voice a real concern about human relations and social interaction.  Some are feeling left out.  I can only imagine that the discomfort being felt by those authors is palpable and beg for a remedy that will quell their uneasiness.  They want the messaging to stop and return to a dialog about good design and extraordinary buildings. 

As your president, I wish I could eliminate the awkwardness some might feel.  Just as I wish that presidents from 1968 until the recent past had felt the discomfort of their membership who were isolated and marginalized for their gender, their appearance, their life choices, or their God-given skin tone.  Change is uncomfortable, but it is also inevitable.  We either grow or protest; we embrace it or fear it.  Everybody won’t always be the center of attention, the beneficiaries of a tainted, flawed, and highly prejudiced system.  

It would have been nice if our collective voices had to be raised fifty years ago, or even forty. Thirty wouldn’t have been too bad. But instead… silence.  Please know that I certainly understand what it means to feel uncomfortable, and I am grateful that we as a profession are speaking up and speaking out.  For the past few years, architects are making some noise.  It is inspiring.  It is impactful.  It is uncomfortable.  And it beats the silence.

Robert Easter, FAIA
AIA Virginia President


I first met Milka Bliznakov in the Fall of 1977. She was quite intimidating: a strong Bulgarian accent bellowing from a deep-voiced, chain-smoking woman who was tenacious and demanding. Tears still come to my eyes when I think about her influence on my life and career. She was the first female architect that I ever met. I was new to Blacksburg, and Charles Steger assigned me to be her Graduate Assistant. She made me teach the one class that I had the least interest in as an undergraduate, Architectural History. She was my Thesis advisor and taught me writing and language skills that you would not expect from someone for whom English was a second language; she put so much red ink on my Thesis that you would have thought it had a ruptured spleen. She supported me when during my second year in Blacksburg I created a Lecture series to introduce Tech to Black design professionals. She funded my participation in programs outside of Blacksburg to give me broader experiences and expose me to the world of architecture. As I said at her memorial service, she was a mentor, a teacher, and a friend.

Robert Easter, FAIA

In 1985, Milka founded the International Archive of Women in Architecture “to document the history of women’s contributions to the built environment by collecting, preserving, and providing access to the records of women’s architectural organizations and the professional papers of women architects, landscape architects, designers, architectural historians and critics, and urban planners.”1  

In my graduating classes at Hampton University and VA Tech, there were a combined total of four women receiving their degrees with me. Today, half of the students graduating from Hampton are women and many are like April Drake, Ramatoulie Muhammed, Ashley Montgomery, are destined to be trailblazers who set the design profession on fire. There are more women in architecture today, because they have defied the barriers, withstood the biases, and proven to be critical partners in the work of improving the built environment. And I am certain that most of you reading my thoughts know of many who are doing work that demands our attention, and making contributions that demand our gratitude.

I don’t know how many women were licensed to practice architecture in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but I know that the struggle for recognition and participation has not been easy. What I do know is that Virginia has been blessed to have great leadership in our profession demonstrated by some awesome women. My life has been strongly influenced by designing women, whether licensed or not, who have contributed to my life experiences.

Some were co-workers and colleagues like Carmina Sanchez, Mason Andrews, Marci Turner, Laura Battaglia, Lisa Hampson, Guylaine DesRosier, Lisa Letteri, and LaVeesha Rollins, whose work made me look good. Some, like Jame Anderson and Becky Messer, were great practitioners, collaborators, and even competitors who occasionally allowed me to ride their coattails to success.  Others, like Krystal Anderson and Caitlin Morgan, are up-and-coming leaders who will one day take the mantel of leadership in our profession.

And then, there are some dear friends: like Helene Dreiling, Roberta Washington, Kathryn Prigmore who have pushed me, supported, encouraged, and advised me over the years. I would have to write a book to mention all of the great women architects who have touched my life; but, during this Woman’s History Month, I hope you will take some time out and thank some of the ones who helped shape you. For all that she did for me, I never got the chance to tell Milka thank you. But I hope that in this writing, she smiles, knowing that, at least for me, she will never be forgotten, and that her impact has made a difference.

Robert L. Easter, NOMAC, FAIA
2022 AIA Virginia President


Greatness and Heroes

I have been in the presence of greatness. I have been mentored by some of the most notable, gifted, and celebrated architects of recent generations. Not just in my formative years when I was raised professionally by John Spencer and James Hall; I have sat in the homes of icons like John Chase, Wendell Campbell, and Norma Sklerek. I have been guided in leadership by the likes of Harry Overstreet and William Stanley. I was ushered into a room to witness this greatness by the likes of Andy Heard, Paul Devereaux, and Richard Franklin so that I can now say, “I have seen greatness”. I have sat at the table with Harvey Gantt and Harold Williams; received words of encouragement from Charles McAfee, and Jeh Johnson. I’ve dined with David Lee; I was taken to the home of Mandela by Peter Malafane; and, joined Max Bond and Marshall Purnell at the White House where we met the President. I’ve been toasted by Pierre Goudiaby; I’ve learned about the toils of practice from Paul Ford, Mort Marshall, Leon Bridges, and Stan Britt; and I’ve learned the joys of academia from Barbara Laurie, Richard Dozier, Rodner Wright, Andrew Chinn, and Brad Grant. I’ve learned the greatness of design from Don Stull, David Lee, Curt Moody, and Phil Freelon. I’ve learned to be an advocate for social justice from Michaele Pride and Jack Travis. I might not be their peer, but I am able to call Corey Clayborne, Mike Rogers, Roberta Washington, Roland Wiley, Steve Lewis, Steve Lott, Neil Hall, Cheryl McAfee, Ed Dunson, and James Washington my brothers and sisters. For me, these aren’t stories book characters, or memories handed down through the experiences of others; these are folks who have touched my life and made a tangible difference in the way I live. I have witnessed greatness firsthand. And they taught me to aspire… not to be great, but to do great things. And they taught me that to do great you must have a passion for service, a commitment to excellence, and a deep and abiding hatred for mediocrity. My one hope is that there is a young architect somewhere in the world, who will one day remember something that I did or said, that inspires them to do great things. Not so that they remember my name, but so that they continue the enduring legacy of greatness that is the Black Architect in America.

Robert Easter, FAIA

I wrote these thoughts several years ago, hoping for an opportunity to share them with professionals who might not be familiar with all of the names. In recent times, I also was reminded of other heroes of mine: Maryanne Akers, Ralph Belton, Bell, Hazel Edwards, Ikhlas Sabouni and Rodner Wright. While they might not be familiar to you, they are the academic administrators of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’) with accredited architecture programs. Four of those campuses received bomb threats that caused their universities to close. Every day our colleagues are inspired to teach architecture to young and gifted minds. They endure the daily grind of underfunded mandates, discriminatory rhetoric, deficient resources, and underappreciated faculties and staff. They teach students who come from varied backgrounds and levels of preparation. They teach students who have to work full-time to afford tuition, books, room, and board, while also supporting other critical interests at home. They do all of this because they have a passion for their students, for teaching, and for architecture. They don’t work for medals; there aren’t any being offered. They don’t work for the pay; they would make more in the industry. They do it out of genuine love for the work; for making a difference in the lives of young people who, themselves, will one day achieve greatness. And they do it in spite of the odds.

If the bomb threats had been made on the campuses of SEC or ACC schools, our profession would be up in arms. The PAC-10 or BIG-10 would have armies of alum standing guard at the gates to assure the safety of their alma maters. I can only hope that the family of architects hearing about the challenges that my heroes are addressing understand that every HBCU in America is now on high alert. We are teaching students at a time when they have COVID, social unrest, and, now, the threat of violence hanging over their heads on a daily basis. It is not easy. That’s why my colleagues are my heroes. They continue to demand excellence of their students, while simultaneously helping them navigate through a world that seems to be less kind and more indifferent. Life isn’t fair, equitable or just. But as a community of architects and business leaders, I hope that our profession rises to this occasion and offers compassion to my heroes.

Robert Easter, FAIA
2022 President
AIA Virginia


I am overwhelmed with gratitude to the members of AIA Virginia for their trust in me (however misplaced) to lead this august body of elite professionals as we navigate the treacherous terrain of politics, economics, and life safety amidst a pandemic and social upheaval. I’m afraid to say that the worst is behind us because that is so uncertain. What I do know is that we are in a new year with new possibilities, new aspirations, new hopes, and a new vision.

Robert Easter, FAIA

I want to first thank my dear friend Sean Reilly for his extraordinary leadership through the challenges of 2021. I say first hand his leadership, wisdom, and humanity and they provided me with a template that I will strive to replicate. I want to thank Corey and the AIA Virginia staff for working hard to ensure that our professional organization provided stellar programming and advocacy in a turbulent year. And I want to thank the firms, members, and leadership of each local component for not abandoning ship in tumultuous times.

I hope and pray that 2022 will be better for us all. It is my goal to help AIAVA accentuate the great strengths that we offer as a collective; highlighting the value of our diversity, our creativity, our professionalism, and our commitment to increased and unfettered access to excellence in design. There are communities across our Commonwealth that are not familiar with our profession and the benefit of our work. There are aspiring and creative minds who are unaware that architecture is an avenue for expressing their gifts in a way that improves their communities and their environment. And there are potential clients who don’t understand the benefit that we offer to help enhance their physical environment while also helping them protect our natural environment.

We have so much to offer and there are so many who can play a role in spreading the message that architecture makes a difference. That is why, in addition to being overwhelmed with gratitude, I am overwhelmed with anxiety looking at the tasks before us. There is so much to do and the year is already two weeks old. If you are like me, you probably have more on your plate than time will allow you to accomplish.

I am also overwhelmed with hope. 2021 was a challenging year, but so was 2020, 2019, 2018… Every year comes with its own set of issues. But this is a year to celebrate. I want you to join me in celebrating what we do well, what we contribute to the greater and broader community of humanity (not just in the built environment, but what we do to touch lives). I want us to celebrate who you and I are, both the differences and the similarities. And I want us to celebrate architecture, the thing that unites us and brings us fulfillment.

So as we embark on this new and exciting year, I hope that you will join me in getting overwhelmed with all that the future offers our profession, our members, and our communities.

Robert Easter, FAIA
2022 President
AIA Virginia