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Chapter Board Installation & Founders Award

For more than 60 years the traditional annual Installation celebration has provided an opportunity for the incoming President of Pasadena & Foothill AIA. to have in attendance many family, friends and colleagues to share in this symbolic passage- the receipt of the mantle of leadership from the previous president.  The membership and the Board have expressed their confidence in the new President’s ability to lead them in fulfilling the Chapter’s mission. This celebration starts off a new year with all the enthusiasm and hope that such a passage brings.

The Installation provides a chance to renew the pledge to be Architects who are stewards of the built environment. As a Chapter, a new year begins of actively being involved in our communities and as "Citizen Architects” take a strong and informed leadership role. Thus the Chapter commits for another year to be recognized as a resource to our civic leaders, providing them with assistance in design, planning and preservation issues.

In November 2013, the Chapter was honored to have as keynote speaker, AIA National President, Mickey Jacob, FAIA.  The Installation / Holiday Party took place at the historic Altadena Town & Country Club. 

Jana Itzen, 2017 AIACC President will serve as Installing Officer of the 2017 Board at the Design Awards Gala / Board Installation event on 1/21/17.

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The Joseph F. Thomas Founders Award

Joe Thomas, noted architect and longtime member of the chapter was recognized with the 2010 Annual Joseph F. Thomas Founders Award in 2010 for his distinguished service to the profession and community.

Future recipients of this annual reward will be selected from the AIAPF members that have been with the chapter for 30 years or more.

Recipients include:

2012 Harlan Pedersen, AIA
2014 Lance Bird, FAIA
2015 James F. Currie, AIA
2016 Robert McClellan, AIA

 

Joseph F. Thomas, FAIA Tribute
by James G. Spencer, AIA

With a West Virginia accent as ‘smooth as well-aged bourbon’, Joe Thomas has an inspiring story to tell about his life and career. He is being honored by the Pasadena and Foothill Chapter, AIA, as the ‘last one standing’ – our last charter member. This became so after the passing last December of his long time business partner and fellow chapter founder, Donald E. Neptune, FAIA.

In 1948 when our chapter was founded, Joe and Don were the “young guys” – so named by the other founders. Yet from today’s perspective, they created one of the chapter’s most enduring and successful architectural practices. NTD Architecture of today is directly descended from Joe and Don’s practice begun in 1953.

Joe started in architecture well before the 1950’s. As a child of 7, he remembers first wanting to become an architect; he still has his childhood watercolors illustrating his earliest fantasy designs of buildings and bridges. Perhaps the only detour from that goal came when he began college at Duke University in North Carolina – only to discover to his dismay that it didn’t have an architecture program. So he transferred in his sophomore year to Carnegie Technical Institute --today’s Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburg -- and graduated five years later in 1938. As president of his fraternity, Joe was a leader and also active in college affairs as editor in chief of the Tartan, the college newspaper.

He earned his first architecture license in West Virginia in 1941 and his California license in 1947. He initially joined the AIA in 1944 (Tennessee Chapter) and actually transferred to the Southern California Chapter (today’s LA Chapter) before earning his California license. Those were the depression and war years, so opportunities for architects were thin. Yet it would prove a blessing in disguise. Many of the dominant firms of the 1920’s and 1930’s had waned, creating an opportunity for a new postwar generation of architects. Neptune and Thomas was certainly one of those. In today’s hard times, it is a situation that may repeat itself.

Joe went into his own practice in 1952 after hearing of a newly passed bond issue in West Virginia and where he returned to be selected as architect and prepare the preliminary designs. But his ‘real’ office was established in Pasadena where the working drawings were ultimately produced. A year later Joe merged his practice with Don who had also gone on his own in order that they go after another school project. What followed of course is history.

Joe was president of our chapter in 1967 and elected to the AIA College of Fellows in 1970. He was elected to the AIA National Board in 1974 and served as our National Treasurer from 1977-1979. Joe is one of perhaps a handful of surviving California architects with a three digit license (#938) and he has witnessed enormous changes to our profession – from hand drawing on linen to CAD and the almost ubiquitous use of computers. Yet the lessons learned from his architectural career are still relevant.

Asked for his opinion on what a fledgling architect should do in opening his or her own office today, he noted “The path I took is universal:
• Get involved in the community
• Have the right friends
• Become an expert
• Join trade associations
• Read your local newspaper
• Run your firm as a business
• Treat your employees well
• Recognize the importance of marketing (without it you won’t make it)
• Earn design awards
• Keep your clients happy."

At age 101, Joe has had a remarkably long life and he still retains his amazing memory. Asked for advice on longevity, he replied without hesitation “get the right genes”. He qualified that by noting that given his family history of heart disease, he would have had a much shorter life. “But I follow rigidly the advice of my doctor and I watch my diet. I read two newspapers every day, the Wall Street Journal and the Star News.” He added, “The only thing that bothers me about growing old is my back and my legs. I have difficulty now working in my garden and I can’t play tennis anymore. But I feel lucky; my mind is as active as it ever was. And I think I’ve kept my sense of humor”. He added with a twinkle that he keeps himself surrounded by younger people --“just to keep you on your toes.”

Finally asked whether he regretted retiring at age 62, he responded: “I could have gone on. But we had hand picked our successors and when they were ready to takeover, it was time to go.” Yet he added “Even today I still practice architecture in my dreams.”

 

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