Honoring Veterans in Architecture

Note: This excerpt was originally published in the NCARB 2014 Annual Report.

I’m proud to stand before you as an Iowan and Region 4 native, grateful for this opportunity to serve as NCARB president in the coming fiscal year.

As I think about my journey to this moment, it seems improbable, but true! From time to time I am asked, “Why did you decide to become an architect?” The truth is that my decision to pursue architecture was born while serving in Vietnam. I wrote a letter to my wife, Linda, between combat missions, sloshing through rice paddies and avoiding Viet Cong gunfire. Influenced by another Recon Platoon soldier who was a landscape architecture graduate, it came to me that I wanted to become an architect.

That time in my life shaped my worldview. It taught me a lot about the value of life. Those experiences stay with me today along with the faces of those I served with—including those that we lost along the way.

But what also stayed with me was a growing sense that I could pursue a vision, a career in architecture, and a motivation to become licensed. This vision would allow me to both protect society and also explore my own creativity. Pursuing that vision has resulted in an interesting, and sometimes bumpy, path. Along the way I have deepened my connection to my community, having served as a director or officer on numerous local and state boards and commissions. I have worked on projects that have repurposed historic buildings, providing an outlet for recreation and opportunities to convene and to celebrate.

This sense of community has also motivated me to volunteer. I have been an active AIA member in Iowa, serving in officer positions; I was also privileged to serve on the AIA National Board with current AIA President Helene Combs Dreiling. I have had the honor of being appointed to the Iowa State Board and to be elected to the leadership of Region 4 and then the NCARB Board of Directors. The ability to give back shaped by my family and my wartime experience, has only heightened my enjoyment of being an architect. I know you all share in that desire to contribute, or you wouldn’t be here today.

Whether the sky is lit up with incoming rockets or mortars, or the blogosphere is crowded with conflicting opinions, I’ve learned that growing together along this evolutionary path is essential. Today’s NCARB culture embraces collaboration and transparency. You and your predecessors have worked hard to get us to this point. We have “blue-skied,” surveyed, focused, brainstormed, and strategized together over the past several years. We have agreed to disagree. And we all understand that while consensus is desirable, unanimity is unlikely.

And so my challenge to you for the coming year is to remember each other and to respect what motivates each of us to participate. The rigor that brought me to this place was important, but it may not be what works for today. The traditions that exist in one jurisdiction may override a national consensus. Remaining open and promoting our sense of community is critical.

I am especially pleased to be able to serve along with my friend Helene in shepherding our two respective organizations. I believe there is a new respect and a new honesty in our relationship with our collateral colleagues, which is good for the profession and the public. We are laying the foundation for partnerships when feasible and affirming our appreciation for each other’s mission.

The strategic activity of the past several years now yields to a new era of implementation and dialogue. This is our opportunity to demonstrate real leadership to our Member Boards, aspiring architects, the profession, and the public.

Veterans, eligible dependents, and reservists can receive reimbursement for all divisions of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). For more information, visit the Veterans Affairs Office website. Extensions are also available for active military service.

About the Author

Dale McKinney, FAIA, Sioux City, IA, served nine years on the Iowa Architecture Examiners Board. He served as chair from 2003-2004 and 2009-2010. He has served on NCARB committees related to the Professional Development Program, the Intern Development Program (IDP), and procedures and documents. McKinney was elected to the Board of Directors in 2009 as the director for the Mid-Central Conference (Region 4), secretary in 2010, treasurer in 2011, second vice president in 2012, and first vice president/president-elect in 2013. He was installed as NCARB president at the Council's 95th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. McKinney is the founding partner at M Plus Architects. He has served the profession as the president of AIA Iowa and as the Central States regional director on the AIA national board of directors from 1997-1999. A graduate of Iowa State University, McKinney holds the NCARB Certificate and is licensed in Iowa, Arizona, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, and South Dakota.