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William Stanley, FAIA, Inaugurated 52nd Chancellor of AIA College of Fellows

On Dec. 12, more than 100 members of the AIA College of Fellows met at AIA National in Washington, D.C., to inaugurate a new Chancellor: William Stanley, FAIA. 2013 AIA President Mickey Jacob, FAIA, 2014 AIA President Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, and outgoing Chancellor of the College of Fellows Ron Skaggs, FAIA, celebrated this legacy of leadership and welcomed Stanley as the 52nd Chancellor. It was a momentous day for Stanley, even beyond the inauguration ceremony: Just hours earlier, the AIA Board of Directors selected his wife, Ivenue Love-Stanley, FAIA, for the 2014 Whitney Young Award. The following is the speech Stanley delivered to begin his tenure as Chancellor.

This marks the most incredible day of my professional career. Many thanks to all of you who have come to celebrate with Ivenue and me. It is rare to have been afforded so many of God’s Blessings. Your trust and the encouragement along with the unwavering love and support of my wife and business partner of 35 years is something special. My parents, sister, extended family, and our friends have all believed in me when I was neither worthy of it or did not adequately express my gratitude for it. To you I am forever indebted. Architecture is my passion. And I plan to practice for as long as I have the ability to do so. It is the one thing that does not feel like work – most of the time.

I am reminded of that sunny but windy day at Peitro Beluschi’s St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco. Harold Adams, FAIA, was Chancellor and AIA President Ronald Altoon, FAIA, hung the AIA Fellows medal around my neck. At that juncture, none of this other bling had been bestowed upon me.

Chancellor Adams’ charge to our class was resounding. I would never have imagined that just 15 years later, I would be elected Chancellor of the college. Leadership in the college is an awesome responsibility. We represent the most distinguished group of men and women in the profession. That responsibility is daunting. Membership in the College of Fellows is reserved for only about 3.4 percent of the entire membership of the Institute.

Our collective responses to the call for service have created bonds that will endure for a lifetime. In this, the 60th anniversary of the founding the college, the executive committee has been very busy. We have been clear in our focus and strategic in our action. We are in the planning phases of a major campaign. We propose that we join with the AIA Foundation to raise funds to restore the Octagon. This campaign will enhance our ability to mentor and support programs of the Young Architects Forum--that incredibly talented and forward-thinking group of tomorrow's leaders. They are our future and our future will be secure with them at the helm.

This campaign will also enable us to expand our sponsored research through the Latrobe Prize, which is the largest grant of its kind in the country. We plan to convene the Latrobe Retrofit Task Force--a blue-ribbon panel of former chancellors and Latrobe jury foremen who will evaluate its first 10 years and advise us of what has been successful and what warrants improvement. Today's Latrobe formal review of the current awardee “The City of 7 Billion,” was the most exciting and relevant update in years. Vice Chancellor Al Rubeling, FAIA, will convene the task force. We met today with the Council of Chancellors. They are the heavyweights of the profession. This advisory committee convenes twice a year to discuss the myriad issues that face the College and the Institute, including possible fundraising strategies.

Finally, the campaign will enable us to provide for more scholarships than are currently available. Were it not for such scholarships I would not be standing here tonight. The College of Fellows is on the move, so I trust that you will respond positively when you are called upon to participate with us. We have enlivened our mission for mentoring through programs created and supported by our regional representatives. We have gained more momentum than ever before. Our regional reps are a veritable army of energetic, sage, and resourceful volunteers, most of whom represent the best of the best in our ranks. Kudos to Gary Desmond, FAIA, and his predecessor Bursar John Sorrenti, FAIA, for the enormous success of that group of champions.

I have been delighted, uplifted, and energized by my interactions with members of the Young Architects Forum as well as the mentoring programs at the College of Architecture at Georgia Tech and the local NOMA Student Chapters. I don't yet tweet or blog, but since I am really 65 going on 35, I can relate very well to the YAF. These are unquestionably the most rewarding activities that I participate in.

Please allow me to explain why I chose architecture as my life’s work.

I am here today because some architect, some teacher, some counselor believed in me. Without their guidance, I would never have agreed to advance the desegregation of Georgia Tech 47 years ago. The activities of the first five years produced only one graduate in the entire school. I succeeded in becoming the first black student to graduate from the College of Architecture.

There are several events that I experienced very early in life that impacted my decision to become an architect. I'll take a moment to describe them to you.

First, I owe an incredible debt of gratitude to my parents who recognized my passion for the arts by enrolling my sister and me in dancing school, children's choirs, piano lessons, and theater, in addition to little league baseball and football. Music, painting, drawing, reading, travel, and scholarship were staples in our family. My mother was an amateur decorator, horticulturist, Audubon Society member, and entrepreneur.

In 1911 at the age of 11, my father was forced to home school himself because his mother died. She had been a college professor, and he had accompanied her to school. Upon her death, his formal education ended. You see, there were no public schools for blacks in Atlanta in 1911. He later attended business school to study accounting, but eventually became a master silversmith, and plied that trade for 50 years. He was an avid reader and tournament contract bridge player.

The next formative event occurred when our blended family needed a new home. My mom found an architectural designer to draw the blueprints. His design was based upon her sketches. At age 7, I accompanied her to his home office where I became completely entranced by his drawings and models. Each day I accompanied her on construction site visits during which she counted nails in studs, rejected planks with knot holes, and inspected masonry coursing. She knew what she wanted and she got it, similar to the way that Ivenue performs inspections and punch lists for our projects.

The next event happened a few years later when the interstate highway system commandeered our church by eminent domain. The church trustees were not to be outdone, and hired the preeminent G. Lloyd Preacher to design our new sanctuary. Preacher had designed Atlanta’s City Hall among numerous other significant buildings. At age 12, this project was transformative for me. I slipped away from the church service after Sunday School every Sunday morning to inspect the building, climb the scaffolding and scale the steeple, check out the millwork detailing, and pour over the drawings of this exquisite and massive Georgian edifice.

Those experiences during my formative years created in me a sense of reverence for the profession. However, my only real professional role model at that early age was my cousin Nelson Harris, AIA, who practiced in Chicago, Cleveland, and Youngstown, Ohio. Nelson was an original founder of NOMA, and would no doubt have become a Fellow had he lived.

My first encounter with the Association of Student Chapters of the AIA was as a delegate to the 1968 National Student Convention in Ann Harbor, Mich., where Culver Taylor of Howard University was elected as its first black president.

I was fortunate to have earned internships each of my six years at Georgia Tech, and in 1969 I traveled to Europe to work as an exchange student intern in Galway, Ireland. I travelled throughout Brittan and Europe. The experience was life changing. Just three months before I was to graduate, I met a pretty young girl who had just turned 21 but looked like she was 16. She had earned a degree in mathematics in three years, but instead of studying medicine, she elected to study architecture as a second degree. The rest is history. Ours has been a partnership of sacrifice, as well as an opportunity to do good for society while doing good work in architecture.

The profession has opened doors for us that we could never have imagined. It has afforded us opportunities which we certainly would not have experienced otherwise. We have made friends around the world, and along the way we have found mentors and life-long comrades. I dare not call their names because the roll call would take too long. We are indebted to the Institute for allowing us to participate at this level of leadership. As designers, the buildings that we have created have become beacons of hope, and places for renewal of the spirit, as well as the celebration of our culture and heritage.

I am reminded of one high point in our career. We were selected to create the university master plan with Harry Robinson, FAIA, for Wilberforce Institute in Evaton, South Africa. We subsequently designed the first building in association with the late Motlatse Peter Malefane, Hon. FAIA. This was the first American University to be built in Africa. It was a USAID project, which we administered from our office. First Lady Winnie Mandela was chosen to dedicate the building in Nelson Mandela's absence. I will never forget that experience, as well as my visits to his home in nearby Soweto.

The people whom we have met are among the finest on this planet. I will be forever grateful for being entrusted with this most important position. As I take office as Chancellor, I follow in the footsteps of the men with whom I have served with excellence and grace. They are the true giants of the profession. I have benefitted from the leadership of Ed Kodet, FAIA, Chet Widom, FAIA, Norman Koonce, FAIA, and Ron Skaggs. They have become my friends for life. John Busby, FAIA, is a fellow Atlantan and alumnus whose sage advice we have always counted on for several years. We thank you for the time you have spent to mentor us. We will pay it forward.

William Stanley, FAIA. All images courtesy of William Stewart.

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From left to right, Ron Skaggs, FAIA, William Stanley, FAIA, and Mickey Jacob, FAIA.

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