Proud

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

Empowering

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

  1. https://spec.lib.vt.edu/iawa/

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

Overwhelmed!!!

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

Calling for the Next Generation to Shape our Future

I was in my mid-thirty’s when I was introduced to leadership in the National Organization of Minority Architects. I was mentored by some of the most historic and accomplished design professionals this nation has known, though many lived in anonymity to the world that ignored their talents and genius. Though the world refused to see them, they made it clear that they saw me, and in me they saw something of value. Because of their trust and guidance, and with their unwavering support,  I served seven years in national leadership, including two as the national President, before I turned 40. My successor was younger than me. I believe that my youthful energy and vision served the organization well. 

Robert Easter, NOMAC, FAIA

As President-elect, I have two primary responsibilities. The first is to continue chairing the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) committee, espousing the values of our profession: to ensure that we work to achieve social, political, racial, and economic justice in our communities, across our Commonwealth, and throughout our nation.  

The second, even more important responsibility, is to chair the Nominating Committee. Like the elders of NOMA, I believe my responsibility is to identify and mentor new bold younger members to take the mantle of leadership and build AIAVA into an even more vibrant and enduring source of good for our profession and our nation. I need you.  

Today, I am much older, slightly wiser, but certainly less energetic. Though my eyes are not as strong, I still have a vision. I see the AIA as an organization of great potential for impacting our profession and our communities. But my vision is not of my accomplishments or dreams; it is a vision of you taking command, exerting leadership, and molding the Institute into a more dynamic, engaged, and relevant organization with an agenda that impacts the social, political, and cultural climate of our nation, our Commonwealth and your communities. My goal is to set the table for you to come and sit, dine and discuss how we make the AIA, AIA Virginia, and our components do the good that is important to you and your future. I need your input. I need your ideas. I need your leadership. I need your voices, your hands, and your heart. I need your commitment. 

With this email, I am inviting you to share your vision for AIA Virginia. Whatever you see the AIA becoming, whatever causes you think we should champion, whatever path you believe we should take, please let me know. More importantly, tell me what you are willing to do to make it happen. If AIA Virginia is to survive and thrive. it will be because of your engagement and your leadership. Like the heroes of my past, I trust you to take this beyond the limits of our imagination. You are trained in creative thinking, rooted in the technology of hope. Let’s plan our future, your future, for AIA Virginia.   

Robert L. Easter, NOMAC, FAIA
Chair, Department of Architecture
School of Engineering & Technology
Hampton University
Hampton, Virginia 23668
Robert.Easter@Hamptonu.edu
(757) 727-5440 (office)
(804) 307-6836 (cell)

Can You Hear Me Now?

An Open Memo to My Colleagues in the Community of Architecture

A cellular company once popularized the commercial phrase, “can you hear me, now?” For years, there has been a credible, audible but unheard plea from the depths of the soul of a segment of the American family that there is an injustice that has been perpetual and persistent. America has not listened because it only impacted a small number of our family members. Occasionally there was an uprising when tensions from the injustice rose to a boil, but they were quickly squashed.

Robert L. Easter, FAIA, NOMAC

In the struggle for equity, diversity, and inclusion, we must understand that the powerless will never be in a position to make real substantive change. Our American family, and my Architecture family, has a real problem with racism; it is an evil and ugly virus that has plagued our nation for 401 years.

Our nation was built on many principles, most of them laudable and admirable. But one undeniable fact is that America’s prosperity has been borne and continues to thrive on the idea that some lives are not valued as much as others. It is why Black men, women, boys, and girls can be brutalized and murdered with impunity, whether or not they present a threat to those who are better armed and better trained to address injustice or challenges to authority, whichever they chose to hear. Racism is real and unrelenting; unfortunately, those who are victimized by this insidious disease are not the ones infected by it. It is a family disease and its morbidity uncommonly impacts one segment of our family. It is in our genes, running unrestrained through our national DNA with no scientist seeking cures or treatments because those with power have the disease and those with the disease not understanding how they could ever suffer from it… until there is unrest.

Today, we are at another boiling point. Tempers are heightened, and the cry for justice is overwhelming. And America, our family, is watching with anxiety and concern. We deplore the violence; we are shocked at the level of unrestrained looting and destruction; we want something to be done to make things safe in our cities like we had become accustomed to. Our world is already reeling with COVID-19 and our businesses are suffering; this unrest is not going to help!

So, where do we go from here? I suggest that there are three priorities that must be embraced by our professional community: the architecture family. The first is the simple reality that one of the primary reasons that so few African Americans practice architecture is racism. That is a hard first step, but let’s examine racism by its definition. It is the active or inactive effort employed by a dominant race to exert its position of power over another race to subjugate or control the opportunities that the latter can participate in. It is using race as the marker to disenfranchise another race. It is not always done consciously and may even be unintentional. Race is the result of bias and bigotry. We are not all bigots, but we all have biases.

Overcoming racism requires that we acknowledge and confess our biases and explore how those biases may have adversely affected an entire segment of our community family. Much of the positive discussion in our profession was generated by a growing and prosperous economy that afforded the privileged the opportunity to be generous. But fighting racism isn’t how you respond in good time; it is what you do in the moments of heat, confusion, anxiety, and fear. It is how you respond when your commissions are in limbo and your profits are at risk.

Secondly, if we can identify those conscience and unconscious actions, we must make a determined, thoughtful, and committed effort to undo both the actions and their impacts. Our efforts must be intentional and embedded in the culture of our workplaces. Diversity, inclusion, and equity can’t be buzzwords. Empty rhetoric and pious platitudes created the chaos and unrest that we see on our streets. Those of our family who sit in more privileged seats at the table (meaning that those who are able to influence the political, social, and economic structures) must acknowledge that they have a responsibility to be advocates for immediate and substantive change. That change must be in policy and practice. We must be willing to hear the voices of the marginalized and victimized, but not just hear them, we must listen with open hearts, open minds, and open wallets. Change is never free, and it costs more than change.

We must demand that our Human Resource professionals embrace a sense of educational and cultural preparedness. We must train our staff to recognize and root out bigotry in the workplace, in all of its forms. They must employ measures to address the systemic concerns of their African American employees. Many of the large firms in our family are located in large metropolitan areas where the daily ritual of life can be a torment. As employees are relocating to our city, we must let them know that there is a network that they can depend on and go to for relief, support and backup when they are confronted with the adversities of being Black in America. Our place of business must be a safe haven, not a sweatshop; for young men and women who, right now, can’t always discern ally or enemy, friend or foe.

Finally, we must make it clear that we will always be advocates for justice, no matter how it impacts our bottom lines. We have to pick up our signs and march. We have to register and vote. We have to make our political contributions count; those who receive our support and must know that how they legislate will determine how we give. Justice isn’t black or white, it isn’t liberal or conservative, it isn’t even left… it is only right. Most architects are influential and respected members of the communities where we live and practice. We have to capitalize on our community status for the wellbeing of our family. We must make sure that the journey from home to work and back home is safe, and that there are no communities that our family members aren’t allowed to call home or journey to, without being harassed, targeted, or treated with suspicion.

Well, family, what are the streets telling you? What message do you hear from the broken glass and looted shelves? What are the ashes of burned-out buildings screaming to you? Are those shattered businesses telling you that they need protection? Are they suggesting that they need armed and militarized aid to keep them secure? What do the thrown bottles and bricks say to you about the struggle they are experiencing when flung through the air by mindlessness? Are they asking for our elected leaders and their agents to get tougher on the perpetrators?

That is what most of our family members hear. We continue to be deaf to the voices of those whose lives were terminated by injustice. We don’t hear the voices of the young marginalized men who feel We want justice; but, for who? Martin L. King, Jr. once said in a speech denouncing rioting, that “riots are the cries of the unheard.” And those who have been crying out for days, years, months… even centuries that have landed on deaf ears, want to know, simply, can you hear me, now?

I have a 27-year-old son who recently moved to Los Angeles. From his ancestors, he inherited a brilliant mind. From his mother, he inherited good looks and compassion. From me, he inherited a sharp tongue and brown skin. I pray every day that I did not confer upon him a death sentence. He has an occasion to speak his mind to people he has no influence over. Wherever he has lived in the past, be it his birthplace of Richmond, VA, or Boston, MA, where he received a stellar education, he has been confronted by those sworn to protect and defend him and treated like he doesn’t belong.

Many of my American family members don’t know that fear of wondering where your child is every evening or is he still alive each morning. They don’t understand how a young man graduating from a prestigious school with a 3.6 GPA, can be a threat to anyone. I can’t afford to be patient, because of my son’s life, and the lives of the students I teach to be of value to our profession, hang in the balance. My son needs you to be his advocate because his father is totally powerless to ensuring that he is heard, respected, and valued. My son needs to know that when he and his peers speak, you can hear him.

by Robert L. Easter, FAIA, NOMAC
Copyright 2020

Meet Robert L. Easter, NOMAC, FAIA

Robert L. Easter, AIA, NOMA, assumed the role as chair of the Department of Architecture at Hampton University in September 2008. He has overseen the reaccreditation effort of the professional program, securing a six-year affirmation of the program’s standing with the National Architectural Accrediting Board. Professionally, he is President of KEi architects (formerly Kelso & Easter, Incorporated) in Richmond, Virginia. A graduate (Bachelor of Architecture) of Hampton University, he also holds a Master of Architecture degree in Architecture / Urban Design from Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University. He is an ordained minister and has done extensive graduate studies at the Divinity School at Howard University. His initial registration is in the state of Maryland, and he is licensed to practice architecture in Virginia and the District of Columbia. He holds certification with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and his firm holds active registrations in twelve states and Quebec, Canada. He began practicing architecture in 1977 in Baltimore, Maryland where he served as a Project Architect and designer for Ford & Associates, Inc. He also worked with the New River Valley Planning District Commission as a staff Architect and taught Architectural Technology for the Northern Virginia Community College. Following a four-year tour of duty in the US Army Corps of Engineers, he founded the Easter Design Center, later merging with John Kelso to form Kelso & Easter, Architects serving the Washington, DC metropolitan area. They were incorporated in 1985 and opened an office in Richmond, Virginia in 1987. In 2001, Mr. Kelso retired, and the entire operation was consolidated to the Richmond office.

Mr. Easter is active in community, civic and professional activities. He has twice served as a Director for the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects and is now the chair of the City of Richmond Board of Code Appeals and a board member of the Metropolitan Business League. His other civic involvements have included: board member Richmond Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau for the City of Richmond, Board member of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Board chair of the and is a member of the Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council. He has served as a board member for the Commonwealth Girl Scout Council of Virginia, Freedom House, Social Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation; Member, Woodley-Nightingale Land-use Task Force, Fairfax County; Member (and former Chair), Architectural Alumni Committee, Hampton University; Board of Directors, Richmond Opportunities Industrialization Center, Richmond, VA; the Board of Directors, Greater Metropolitan Richmond Literacy Council, and as a member of the Northern Virginia Minority Business & Professional Association.

In 1992 he was elected as the fifteenth president of the National Organization of Minority Architects and has been a vigorous advocate for increased minority participation in the public and private sector building industry. During his tenure, NOMA worked to increase opportunities for its members throughout the nation. International engagements included a tour to South Africa where he served on a mission to bridge relationships between black and white architects and assisted in the formation of the Association of Black Architects in that nation, a sister organization to NOMA, during the transition from apartheid to democratic rule. His work, both civic and professional has been recognized in local and national print media, including NOMANews, the New York Times, Metropolitan Magazine, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Richmond Free Press, Progressive Architecture Magazine and Inform Magazine.

Where did you go to college?
I attended Hampton University for undergraduate work and Virginia Tech for graduate school.

Would you recommend studying architecture to a young person? Absolutely. As an educator and practitioner, I believe that the work we do makes a difference

What does it take to be an architect?
Passion, creativity, determination and opportunity.

Was there an architect that particularly inspired you?
I only knew two architects before attending school: John Spencer, FAIA, who was the dean of Architecture at Hampton University (and a friend of our family), and Bert Berenson, who was Mr. Spencer’s predecessor (whom my mother worked for). Since beginning my career, I am inspired by a number of great architects, including John Chase, Wendell Campbell, and John Kelso. Stylistically, my favorite was the Japanese American design icon, Minoru Yamasaki.

What are you currently reading?
I am reading Slaves in the Family, by Edward Ball.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
The next one. Every meal is good. I love food.

Why do you volunteer with the AIA?
It is an opportunity to serve our profession and to share a perspective that is not always considered. It is an opportunity to make a connection between the profession and students who need to know that our profession welcomes them.