Class Acts: Former student news

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The College of Architecture encourages former students to submit news items for the Class Acts section of the arch|one e-newsletter. This section highlights professional achievements, as well as news briefs about marriages, births, retirements, bucket list accomplishments or whatever else former students care to share with the college community and their former classmates. News and photos may be e-mailed directly to the editor .


David Dacus, BED ‘73 battles hunger and enriches children’s lives as a volunteer for [White Pony Express] ( , a food distribution program in Contra Costa County, California, and [Francis in the Schools] ( , which hosts outings for inner-city San Francisco Bay Area children.

A day of Francis in the Schools activities includes a lively, nondenominational musical play about Francis of Assisi, a 13th-century figure renowned for his message of love, courage, and compassion, followed by a festival with music, dancing, face painting and games.

“These little kids arrive for rides home with their faces painted, carrying flower baskets for their mothers, having been fed with what might be their only wholesome meal of the day and played games until they are exhausted. At the end of the day, when they thank us, some of their chaperones are crying, and most of the rest of the event volunteers are crying too,” said Dacus, who heads an architecture and planning firm that specializes in home, commercial and institutional design, programming and remodeling.


Scott Galloway Smith BED ‘73 is an office building and facility designer, author of a [memoir] ( of 20 years hosting “ [Cheezmuzik] ( ,” an eclectic music show broadcast by a New Orleans public radio station, and a professional voice actor.

Smith is the audiobook voice of “ [New Orleans Confidential] ( ,” which details the adventures of private eye Lucien Caye as he solves cases in 1940s New Orleans.


Laurie Thomas MUP ‘78 is a geographic information system consultant for the Potter-Randall appraisal district in Amarillo, Texas. Prior to her GIS consulting, Thomas was the director of the city of Amarillo’s planning department, retiring in 2003 after 25 years of service.


Rebekah Wood BED ’79, MARCH ’80 is a board member of [The Museum Broken Arrow] ( , which gathers and preserves historical artifacts in Broken Arrow, Okla., and presents them in interactive, informative exhibits. Wood also chairs the Broken Arrow Preservation Action Committee, which encourages students of all ages to develop and sustain a love of the history of the town’s built environment.


Chris Mulder Ph.D. ENDS ’80 heads [CMAI Architects] ( , a firm recently chosen for the design and construction project management of the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in South Africa. Mbeki served as the nation’s head of state from 1999-2008.

At his firm, Mulder, an [Outstanding Alumnus] ( of the college, leads the planning, design, coordination and implementation of large-scale development projects.


Russell Buchanan BED ’83 earned a 2017 Design Honor Award from the Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects for his design of the [Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History Digital Library] ( , a 2,000 square-foot space in the Dallas Museum of Art.

The design, featuring simple geometric forms supported by light and reflective surfaces, features an illuminated central cube formed by a mirrored ceiling that creates the illusion of an expansive space.

He also recently earned an award from the Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects for his design of a glass-walled building at the new Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

He was alsofeatured in [dwell magazine] ( for his design of the Cube House in Dallas. Buchanan designed the 2,156 square-foot residence to be energy efficient, maintenance free and sustainable.

A member of the prestigious American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows, he heads Buchanan Architecture, an award-winning, multidisciplinary design firm.


David Bomba BED ’84 was the production designer for “ [Mudbound] ( ,” an Oscar-buzz generating film about two farmworkers, one African-American, the other, white, who forge a friendship in racially divided Mississippi after their military service in World War II.

The film generated rave reviews and a Netflix distribution deal at its Sundance Film Festival premiere in January 2017. “Mudbound” is scheduled to stream on Netflix and screen in select theaters beginning Nov. 17.

Bomba, an [Outstanding Alumnus] ( of the college, has also contributed to other critically acclaimed films such as the Johnny Cash biopic “Walk The Line.”


David Zatopek BED ’85 is vice president of [Corgan] ( , a global architecture and interior design firm that earned the 2017 Architecture Firm Award from the [Texas Society of Architects] ( . The recognition is one of the TSA’s annual [Honor Awards] ( , which laud exceptional members, firms, individuals, and organizations for outstanding achievements in support of the profession of architecture, the built environment, and quality of life in Texas.

Honorees will be recognized in various events at the TSA’s [78th Annual Convention & Design Expo] ( , November 9–11, 2017, in Austin.


William “Jess” McNeely BED ’92 is the new assistant director and planning manager of the [Coconino County Community Development Department] ( in Flagstaff, Ariz. The department contains planning and zoning, sustainable building, environmental quality, building and safety, and engineering divisions. McNeely was also recently promoted to colonel in the U.S. Army reserves.


Rich DeVaul BED ’97 is exploring how to bring the Internet to remote locations with a network of routers suspended by balloons as a leader with X, a “moonshot” factory at Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

DeVaul’s project and others at X were detailed in the November 2017 [issue] ( of The Atlantic.

David Williams ’97 is a new project executive in Bilbane Building Company’s Columbus, Ohio office. “He brings unique lessons learned and best practices from his previous client-based healthcare project experience, which will further bolster our strategic commitment to the Ohio healthcare market,” said Brett Meyer, vice president at Gilbane Building Company.

Williams’ healthcare facility experience includes projects ranging from healthcare facility construction and renovation.


Gavin Daniels, BED ’99, MARCH ’04 , was recognized as one of Washington D.C.’s most luminary, disruptive, newsworthy and creative members of the capital’s innovation economy as the recipient of a D.C. Inno award for the third consecutive year.

Daniels is the cofounding principal of [Wingate-Hughes] ( , which designs entrepreneurial and commercial interiors in D.C.

“I’m motivated every day to create new spaces for people to invent, think, and work better and smarter. I strive to make D.C. the best city for innovation in the country,” Daniels said.


John Whitaker MARCH ’00 was promoted to senior associate at the Washington, D.C. office of [Quinn Evans Architects] ( , an award-winning architectural and planning practice.

He is a member of a design team transforming the [National Air and Space Museum] ( in the nation’s capital into an energy-efficient, high-performance environment to showcase the U.S.’ achievements in flight and space exploration.

Whitaker is also a member of a team restoring [Old City Hall] ( in Richmond, Va., which has served the public for more than 120 years.

CLASSES OF ’03, ’04, ‘05

Four former students, Keith Holley BED ’03 , Eric Hudson BED ’04 , Vanessa Ortega BED ’05 and Jake Donaldson BED ’04 , principals of Houston-based [Method Architecture] ( , furthered plans to expand their firm’s services into new markets with the acquisition of [Architecture Plus] ( , a design firm in Austin with expertise in civic, residential and sustainability projects.

Method is a full-service firm specializing in industrial, corporate interiors, healthcare, hospitality, breweries, retail and additional projects. The firm is committed to a systematic creative process that focuses on its clients and their needs.


Jennifer Grantham BED ’03 , is the co-owner and a personal fitness trainer at GymStudio in Dallas, where she encourages people to create their own fitness lifestyle. She operates the gym, after 10 years of practicing architecture, with design planning and practice lessons she’s learned.


Zac Harris COSC ‘06 is a new member of the Sustainability Committee of the [Brewers Association] ( , an organization of small and independent craft brewers, beer distributors and members of other allied trades who aim to brew the highest quality beers and enhance the lives of association members and their communities.

“It is my passion and mission to help the industry by implementing sustainable efforts that will have economic and social benefits to our businesses and the communities where we are fortunate to brew,” said Harris, acting sales and marketing director for Alamo Beer Company and the founder of [One Pint for the Planet] ( , an advocacy group that connects brewers, distributors, bars and consumers striving to protect Earth’s environment.


One of the homes that Ben Bigelow COSC ‘05 , and a group from his church helped clean up after Harvey’s floods belonged to Ron Pettit MARCH ’83, BED ‘81 . “We helped Ron with some cabinet and countertop removal in his kitchen,” said Bigelow. A former construction science faculty member at Texas A&M, Bigelow is director of the University of Oklahoma’s Construction Science Division and an associate professor.

Pettit is managing partner at City Design Architects, a firm specializing in residential design, land planning and small commercial projects.


Kyle Lobpries BED ’06,
one of the world’s premier speed skydivers, set a North American [record] ( for fastest average free fall speed — 293 mph — at the recent U.S. Parachute Association National Championships.

“Stepping out of that plane is definitely something that nothing else compares to,” said Lobpries, a U.S. Marine captain who pilots AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and is training to become a flight instructor at a naval air station in Corpus Christi.


Edna Ledesma PH.D. ARCH ’16, BED ’07 is co-leading an initiative to feature race and gender-related issues in built environment teaching and research as a University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture Fellow. Initiative participants also aim to facilitate diversity among design and planning professionals and students.

Ledesma’s research focuses on understanding the evolution of the 21st century city’s cultural landscapes, immigrant populations and micro-economies.


David Rose BED ’11 , is a graphic designer at [Populous] ( , where he provides environmental graphics and wayfinding signage for major sports events including the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four and National Hockey League games. Rose provided graphic design for the Super Bowl 51 in Houston’s NRG Stadium and contributed to its event planning at the 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Miami and other events.

Rose also conducts wayfinding experience audits, assembles environmental graphic design concepts, and has worked on architectural projects through all phases of the design process.


Mason McGaughey COSC ’14 is a new project manager at [RLM General Contractors] ( , one of East Texas’ oldest commercial construction management firms.

A native of Longview, Texas, McGaughey will be managing new construction and renovation projects. He previously worked for Hunt Construction Group of Dallas, managing projects both locally and in the Houston and Fort Worth areas.


Elizabeth Bigler MSCOMG ’15, a project engineer at McCarthy Building Companies, was named one of Constructech Magazine’s [2017 Women in Construction] ( , which honors women who use technology to transform work on the jobsite and in the office.

As a project engineer at the Children’s Health Plano Campus Special Center II, a McCarthy jobsite in Plano, Texas, Bigler is part of a team employing a variety of software programs, 3-D scanning techniqes and drones to save endless hours of resolving mechanical, engineering and plumbing conflicts during the building’s construction, said Matt Bernett, McCarthy senior project manager.

“I'm grateful to receive such a noteworthy award that honors women in construction,” said Bigler. “It is exciting to see technology advancing our industry, and I am thankful that McCarthy, as well as our client, Children’s Health, has allowed our team to explore the use of various technologies to enhance our everyday workflow and project delivery.”


Danika Ostrowski BSVIZ ’14 is heralded as a [Young Artist to Watch] ( in 2017 by Southwest Art, which covers work by artists in the southwestern U.S. [Ostrowski] ( , who creates landscapes in acrylic and watercolor from her Austin, Texas studio, travels frequently in the southwest to photograph and gather reference material for her landscape paintings.

“I am fascinated by the vivid colors and ever-changing natural light of the desert,” she said. “The subject matter of my work varies from plant life, to geological forms, to panoramic views, and I find beauty in the intricacies, unrivaled colors and organic forms found in nature's most private and hidden spaces.”


Steven Cervera BED ‘16 , an architectural intern at [Humphreys & Partners Architects] ( , is the author of a new book, " [Hacking Architecture: A Guide to Software in Architecture School] ( ," that helps young architecture students learn how to use software to quickly create architectural drawings and presentations.

“During many hours studying at Langford I saw many students struggle to grasp the basic concepts of creating floor plans and 3-D models with software,” he said.

The book is also available in a Kindle version on


Cody Bartek BDCR ’17 is a project engineer at [Camden Property Trust] ( , a Houston-based company engaged in construction, ownership, management, development, redevelopment and acquisition of multifamily apartment communities. Bartek hopes to keep in touch with his fellow former students and construction science faculty and staff.

posted January 31, 2018