General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.): “It’s Not Where You Start in Life”

A military and diplomatic leader shares his journey

By Mike Singer, AIA Architect Newsletter 

"It's not where you start in life, it's where you end up and what did you do along the way," said General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.) during the closing keynote address at the 2013 AIA Convention in Denver."Did you invest in yourself? Did you educate yourself? Did you have expectations of yourself?" asked the retired four-star U.S. Army general as he shared leadership lessons from his remarkable 50-year military and diplomatic career.Powell was born in Harlem and was raised in the South Bronx by a father who never graduated from high school and a mother who, according to Powell, felt somewhat superior to her husband because she did. Both parents worked in the garment industry. Ethics and expectations were ingrained at an early age."They were determined that the next generation do better," Powell said of his parents, who immigrated to the United States from Jamaica in search of economic opportunity. "The two things they put into our hearts and minds-'We have expectations of you to do better than we do, and expect you to take advantage of the education system. And don't do anything that would bring a sense of shame on the family.'"Powell, who served as national security advisor to President Ronald Reagan, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and U.S. Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, holds the distinction of being the first African-American ever to serve in these posts.

He began his military career in an Army ROTC program at the City College of New York (CCNY), where he graduated in 1958 with a B.S. in geology. Decades later, he dedicated the Colin L. Powell Center for Leadership and Service at his alma mater, with a mission to develop a new generation of publicly engaged leaders.

"My professors of long ago would be rolling over in their graves," joked Powell, as he shared how one-third of CCNY's graduates are from a school named after him. He admitted to being an average student in most subjects, including a drafting class he dropped out of after two months. "It was in summer school, and I was taking a drafting class, and the professor said, 'Imagine a plane in space at an angle of 60 degrees being intersected by a cone, and draw the resulting figure,' and I said 'I am out of here.'"

Powell found his true calling and excelled in the school's ROTC program. He received a commission as an Army second lieutenant upon graduation and served in the U.S. Army for 35 years, rising to the rank of four-star general.


"No unimportant people in any organization"

"I don't know of any other way to manage or lead people than the way I was taught in the Army," said Powell. "What they taught me at Fort Benning was the motto of the infantry school: 'Follow me.' But the focus was on the verb 'follow' and 'followership.'

"And what they drilled into me, and I've never forgotten since, is that the role of the leader is to put the followers in the best possible light. They're the ones that get it done. Your role is to put human beings entrusted to your care in the best possible environment to accomplish the job, to get the mission done. You need to be there, outwardly looking at the world and inwardly looking at your followers."

During his talk to a near-capacity crowd, Powell drew upon leadership lessons he described in It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership, his 2012 New York Times bestseller that he autographed after his talk.

"What I drilled into all my subordinates over the years was [that] there are no unimportant people at any organization," Powell told the packed auditorium. "Everybody has value. Everybody is a human being. And you have to treat everybody in that way, and develop that bond of common purpose. When you treat them as a trusted follower, they will follow you anywhere."

Challenges of leadership in a digital age

In a convention focused on leadership, Powell shared that leadership is about having a vision, hiring the best possible people to work for you, empowering them to get the job done, and leading with a strong human touch. "Leadership is a very human activity. You can't be a leader without human beings," he said.

Powell also stressed the need to always look out for what's ahead. For a man who grew up in the era of only three television channels that all signed off for the day at 11 p.m. with the national anthem, Powell spoke of how the world is so much more interconnected now. "People are talking to each other on the Internet. You can't hide anything anymore. You need to understand the nature of this complex world where everybody is connected. I was born in an analog age, but [am] trying to keep up digitally," Powell said.

A former member of the board of AOL, Powell is now a strategic advisor at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the renowned Silicon Valley venture capital firm that helped launch Google, Amazon, and other technology startups.

Yet the basic lessons from his Army days still hold true: "Followers are looking for leaders who have physical and moral courage," Powell said. "Followers are looking for leaders who have integrity. Followers are looking for leaders who are selfless, always focusing on the purpose of the organization and taking care of the troops that can get it done. That's what leadership is all about."

General Colin L. Powell (Ret.) giving the keynote speech at the 2013 AIA Convention. Photo by

Realtor: Potential buyers lined up for Stage Center


By Molly M. Fleming
The Journal Record
Posted: 04:48 PM Monday, February 25, 2013 4:48 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY - It's not every day that the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the American Institute of Architects takes a stance on saving a building.

But for the Stage Center at 400 W. Sheridan Ave. in downtown Oklahoma City, the chapter has voiced its opinion that it would like to keep the building intact.

"There just seems like something could be used for the building," said Melissa Hunt, the chapter's executive director. "We came out and really worked with the (Oklahoma City) Community Foundation because we had so many members that said, 'We can't let this building go.' We feel like it's pretty important."

According to the building's Realtor, Mark Beffort, keeping the building intact may be a possibility.

"We've had one group look at it that wants to reuse the facility, while others are looking at developing the site," said Mark Beffort with Grubb and Ellis.

He said he has shown the property to more than a dozen interested parties, and that number has been narrowed to between three and five.

"We do have an interested party that has indicated interest in keeping the existing structure," he said. "But they don't know if they would. We want what's in the interest of the city, but we're making sure whoever buys the site is able to execute their plan."

The buyer of the property could be named by the middle of April, Beffort said.

"We are not under contract with anyone yet," he said.

The purchaser of the property will be named based on three criteria: the price offered, the buyers' capability to execute their plan, and the ultimate use of the structure.

Stage Center is owned by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. There is no price on it.

Hunt said the purchaser will get a building that is in decent shape, considering the 2010 flood. However, the building does not have heat or air conditioning, which is an additional expense the new owner would have to resolve.

"The upper floors were not flooded," Hunt said. "It's been empty since 2010 and it's in remarkably good shape. Where it flooded in 2010 - all of that has been cleaned up."

At one time, the building was being considered for the National Register of Historic Places, but that proposal was put on hold when the Oklahoma City Community Foundation filed a formal objection to the listing.

Hunt said that despite the foundation's objection, the new owner could still put the building on the register if they desired.

The Stage Center, originally called Mummers Theater, is considered historic by architectural groups because it was designed by John M. Johansen in 1970. Johansen was a student of Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright. The building received the American Institute of Architects National Honor Award in 1972. That same year, it was placed in the permanent building model collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.


Take Five: A Titan of Architectural Criticism has Died, but Architects are Best Prepared to Carry on the Conversation

By Robert Ivy, FAIA
AIA EVP/Chief Executive Officer
Until January, if you asked any architectural writer to name the greatest living critic, the answer would inevitably be Ada Louise Huxtable, Hon. AIA. While there have been other renowned minds thinking and commenting on architecture and the built environment in the 20th century (Lewis Mumford springs to mind), no one came close to Huxtable.Writing as the architecture critic for The New York Times, and later for The Wall Street Journal, she balanced careful reporting with strong opinions, providing readers with the social, economic, and political context, as well as the effect a given project exerted on a neighborhood, street, and city. Her columns addressed the art of architecture, but rarely as a stand-alone topic.

Who can forget her realistic appraisal of the future for New York’s Ground Zero, warning us to temper optimism for that supercharged urban nexus, since, in Gotham, developers ultimately had the final say: “What Ground Zero tells us is that we have lost the faith and the nerve, the knowledge and the leadership, to make it happen now.” Many of us, filled with optimism for a fresh start, sometimes recoiled a notch at her pronouncements, or actively disagreed with her, but one fact was clear: Her opinion mattered.

We treasured her because she spoke the truth as she understood it, even when it hurt. And legions of citizens, eager for an educated perspective on buildings or neighborhoods or the city, shared in their appreciation of this refined voice. In a sense, she acted as a progenitor, arming subsequent generations of writers, such as Paul Goldberger, Hon. AIA, (who succeeded her at the Times). But even more importantly, her role helped to set a standard in which informed writers act as the moderator of public discourse, helping us to frame the debate, much as other gifted critics for major news outlets do on their own geographic turf–Blair Kamin in Chicago, Chris Hawthorne in Los Angeles, Robert Campbell, FAIA, in Boston, and now Michael Kimmelman at The Times. We are all in her debt.

While Huxtable honed and valued her professional craft, the Internet has unleashed the genie from the bottle. Today, we don't have to wait for the authoritative article to see a project and form initial decisions. In a sense, all of us can carry on the conversation, because the times demand it. And who better to evaluate architecture, and its effects on the world around us, than architects?

In a way, all architects become critics, for good or ill, practicing their faculties first in the design studio on their own projects, then on those of their classmates and colleagues. The looming need for informed discussion transcends the superficial aesthetic aspects of a given building or community project. Think of Huxtable. Ada Louise would enjoin us to collect our facts, set the context, and look at the larger picture before taking aim. Then, and only then, are we prepared to advocate effectively and forcefully for the built environment–taking a balanced, if powerful position that our clients, or fellow citizens, will listen to, recall, and act on.

Some of us have lamented that, “The public doesn’t understand the value of design.” But it doesn't require a singular generational talent like Ada Louise Huxtable to teach people how architects make the communities we live and work in better places. This is a job for architects as well. No one knows the total story better–neither the client nor the public. You know your project’s intentions. If the building is a school, you know how it might enrich a student's learning experience; if it's a hospital, how it might help a patient heal.

We should use op-eds, letters, blogs, and all manner of social media outlets, adding the architect’s voice without waiting for someone else to frame the debate. In one sense, speaking out and speaking up about architecture in your own community becomes a form of advocacy, a positive action you can take to help advance the understanding and appreciation of your own work and of the profession. Then, when our motives and achievements are recognized by third parties, including great critics like Ada Louise Huxtable, the message will resound clearly and powerfully.

Speak up, speak out about architecture. The AIA of the 21st century needs architects (and critics) like you.

2013 Architecture Week To Be Held In April

February 6, 2013

Architecture Enthusiasts,

The American Institute of Architects Central Oklahoma Chapter (AIACOC) is proud to again bring Architecture Week to the public. Architecture Week celebrates architecture and design in Central Oklahoma. This year the events will run April 8th thru the 14th.

The events include the OKLAHOMANMADE Architectural Photography Competition, the AIACOC Honor Awards, the 12th Annual AIA Architecture Tour, KIDesign and the Oklahoma City Foundation for Architecture's Poker Run.

On April 11, 2013 the OKLAHOMANMADE Architectural Photography Exhibit will be held. This is an event for future photographers, professional photographers, intern architects, architects, and the general public to show their images of Oklahoma built environment. The OKLAHOMANMADE Photographs will be on display and winners will be announced during this event. Come join us for OKLAHOMANMADE event on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at Butzer Gardner Architects on Film Row from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.

The 2013 AIACOC Honor Awards Luncheon will be held on April 12th. AIA will honor individuals and firms both within the profession and outside the profession who merit recognition for their accomplishments on behalf of the architectural profession. This event will take place at Will Rogers Theater from 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

On Saturday April 13, 2013, AIACOC will host two events. One will be the Architecture Tour and the other will be KIDesign. The Architecture Tour is a tour of eight projects in the OKC metro that have been designed by architects. The 2012 Tour locations can be viewed at Tickets for this year's tour will go on sale March 25th and will be $12 in advance or $15 the day of the tour.

AIACOC and the Oklahoma City Foundation for Architecture invite kids 1st through 6th grade to participate in KIDesign. KIDesign is an event that helps our youth discover architecture in a hands on classroom approach.

Architecture Week will conclude on Sunday with the Oklahoma City Foundation for Architecture's Poker Run. The poker run highlights significant structures around the Central Oklahoma area. This event will feature various architectural works that are historic and architecturally significant. There are five designated stops within a 150 mile radius. Attendees draw a poker card at each stop and the winning hand will be determined at the final stop. Motorcycles and cars are both welcome.

We appreciate all the support you have given Architecture Week in the past and we invite you to join us again this year to celebrate the importance of design in our community.

For more information on Architecture Week 2013, please visit

Melissa Hunt, Executive Director

AIA Central Oklahoma




2013 Scholarship Application

The Oklahoma City Foundation for Architecture awards two scholarships annually - one each worth $1,000 to a professional degree-track student at The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.

1. Students must be enrolled and working toward an NAAB accredited BArch or MArch degree at OU or OSU.

2. Students must be enrolled in at least the third year of a BArch program.

2013 Scholarship Application

Oklahoma City Foundation for Architecture Names New Chairman

Andrew Seamans, AIA was named Chairman of the Board at Friday’s Oklahoma City Foundation for Architecture meeting.

Andrew is the principal and owner of D5 Architecture in Norman. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Architecture and is a State of Oklahoma Licensed Architect. Andrew has worked on a wide range of projects in the Oklahoma City Metropolitan area over the last 10 years. He has been involved in public libraries, business office renovations, restaurants, retail, public school facilities, medical buildings and condominium developments.

Status Update on the Efforts to Save Stage Center

It has been a year and a half since the AIA Board published a position paper on the future of Stage Center sparked by an article in the Oklahoman by Steve Lackmeyer and concerned callers to the AIACOC office from members and others. An ad hoc group of architects and other interested parties created a Facebook page called “Save the Stage Center”. Postings on the Facebook page have most recently included renderings of schematic ideas for saving stage center and maximizing site density with new square footage for corporate office use. In fact, the Facebook page was intended to be an opportunity for other designers to upload their ideas to create an overwhelming resource to potential re-developers. There is a lot of room for more ideas on the page. Regular postings also help to keep the spirit of saving the building alive. John Johanson, the architect of the building then known as Mummers Theater passed away on Friday, October 26, 2012.

The need to preserve this world renown piece of architecture and signature composition of the Modern Movement is even more palatable. The next opportunity to show support for the building will be on January 17 at the meeting of the State Historic Preservation Review Committee where they will consider a National Register of Historic Places nomination sponsored by Preservation Oklahoma, Inc. Those interested in showing their support are encouraged to attend the meeting, which will begin at 1:30 pm in the board room at the Oklahoma History Center. The full nomination and meeting agenda can be veiwed by going to .

If you have questions or would like to send a letter of support, please contact the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office at 521-6249 or by mail to 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, Oklahoma City, OK 73105.


Catherine Montgomery, AIA
Preservation and Design Studio

Construction jobs forecast looks good for 2013

Dayton Business Journal
Date: Wednesday, December 26, 2012, 7:25am EST

The nation’s construction industry is expected to post job gains in the coming year, with a solid improvement seen in the housing market in the second half of 2012 that may provide the industry a foundation to build upon going into next year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal reports that Zillow Inc. predicts a 4.1 percent increase in year-over-year prices when the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Home Price Index is released this week.

That could indicate that construction jobs will increase soon.

The Dayton region lost 700 construction jobs in the past year as of October, according to a report from the Associated General Contractors of America. Dayton had 11,100 construction jobs as of October, down 6 percent from the 11,800 in October of 2011. That ranks the region No. 275 in the country for percentage change.

However, the moderate recovery that the construction industry has seen nationwide is expected to continue in 2013, according to the Associated Builders and Contractors.

The ABC predicts that nonresidential construction spending will expand 5.2 percent in 2013.

Arn Henderson, FAIA to be Honored

The 2013 Oklahoma Humanities Awards event, sponsored by the Oklahoma Humanities Council, will be held at the Oklahoma History Center on the evening of Thursday, March 28th at 6:30 pm and will offer delicious food, great camaraderie, and heartfelt sentiments as we acknowledge educators, volunteers, projects, contributors, and community leaders and their efforts to improve lives and create strong communities through the humanities disciplines.

We are axcited to announce that one of our own, Arn Henderson, FAIA will be honored.

Arn Henderson, FAIA, Professor Emeritus of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma, will receive OHC's highest honor, the Oklahoma Humanities Award, for his dedication to the humanities through his study of architecture as it relates to Oklahoma’s past, present, and future. Mr. Henderson is the author and co-author of numerous works including Architecture in Oklahoma: Landmark and Vernacular (1978), The Physical Legacy: Buildings of Oklahoma County 1889-1931 (1980) and currently at press, Bruce Goff: Architecture of Discipline in Freedom (2012). His expertise and dedication helped in the preservation of Guthrie’s commercial district.

Reservations can be made at AIA Central Oklahoma would like to put together a table to support Arn at this events. Tickets are $85 per person. If you plan to attend and would like to sit at our table, please email Melissa at

Demand for Architects Builds Momentum

Billings for Design Jobs Rise for Fourth Straight Month, Reflecting Improving Housing Market and Institutional Demand.

The Wall Street Journal
December 19, 2012

There are few professionals more hopeful for a bright future this holiday season than architects, who are finally starting to see business conditions improve.

Billings at architecture firms have been depressed for the past four years, another victim of the real-estate and housing downturn. But in recent months, that has started to change.

The Architecture Billings Index, which is scheduled for release Wednesday, rose to 53.2 in November. That is the fourth consecutive monthly gain, up two points from a year ago and the highest reading since November 2007, according to the American Institute for Architects, which compiles the index. A reading above 50 indicates that billings are increasing.

A rise in architecture billings can have broad economic repercussions. The pickup means firms will need to hire new design teams, helping to reverse the slide in working architects, whose numbers declined to 153,000 in 2011 from 214,000 in 2007. Rising billings also are viewed as a gauge of future construction activity because real-estate developers tend to break ground on new projects nine to 12 months after they hire design firms. Construction generates large numbers of jobs for engineers, contractors and tradesmen.

Kermit Baker, the AIA’s chief economist, said much of the rise in billings reflects improvements in the housing market. “Construction Economics 101 would say...when you build homes, you need stores, you need schools, you need health-care facilities, so it triggers this broader, supportive activity around it.” In October, home builders started new-home construction at an annual rate of 894,000 units, the highest level in four years.

Architects also are seeing a significant rise in business from the public-sector and from nonprofit organizations, including medical centers and colleges. Architecture firms getting the most business these days cater to institutions rather than to private companies developing speculative office buildings, which in the past has been considered some of the priciest and more-prestigious work.

Many speculative projects that entered the planning stage during the boom years, like Fifth + Columbia, a proposed 43-story office tower in downtown Seattle, remain stuck on the drawing boards. Bob Frasca, a partner in Portland’s Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP, which designed the project, says he hasn’t heard from its developer in three years.

Legat Architects, a 48-year-old Chicago firm, specializes in building transit projects and college and university facilities. The firm is currently working on a commission for Joliet Junior College, which involved about $150 million in classroom buildings, a campus center and research space.

“I think higher education has probably been the most-active market in the last year or two,” said Alan Bombick, a principal with Legat. Mr. Bombick says inquiries and billings are up this year, and the firm is currently building a hotel that is part of large mixed-use development being coordinated by the University of Chicago.

Firms that do business with architects report that conditions are improving, as well. Last year, A. Zahner Co., a Kansas City-based metal fabricator and engineering firm whose clients include top architecture firms such as Zaha Hadid Architects and Herzog & de Meuron, was laying off employees and cutting work shifts.

But this year, the firm is going into 2013 with a $15 million backlog of work. That is smaller than the $20 million to $25 million backlog that is typical in a good year but is a big improvement over last year, said Gary Davis, Zahner’s head of marketing. He predicts that billings will rise 10% between 2012 and 2013.

“There’s an optimistic view toward design again, and it’s not just the big firms,” Mr. Davis said. “People are calling about design questions again, rather than just calling to ask, ‘Do you have a cheaper way of doing this?'”

Neil Denari, a 55-year-old Los Angeles architect, gained international prominence after designing his first free-standing building, HL23, a 14-story condominium building along the High Line, an elevated park in Manhattan that was widely celebrated by the design community. Still, Mr. Denari had to lay off 12 of the 15 employees between 2007 and 2010, as billings fell 75%.

Now, with commissions on the rise, Mr. Denari has staffed back up to 10 employees and has four new commissions, including an office building in Los Angeles and a mixed-use harbor-front project in Taipei, Taiwan. He says he has entered a competition to design a research institute in Cleveland.

“We’re going to be putting more energy into pursuing educational projects, because that’s where a lot of the work is,” Mr. Denari added.

Write to Robbie Whelan at