In Memoriam: Samuel T. Balen

Past NCARB Executive Samuel T. Balen, FAIA, of Westminster, Colorado, passed away in October 2018. During his 17-year tenure as the organization’s executive, Balen was instrumental in developing and implementing many of NCARB’s national programs, including the Intern Development Program, or IDP (now the Architectural Experience Program®), and the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®).

Balen first joined NCARB’s staff in 1969 as the Director of Professional Services, managing the evaluation of architect Records for NCARB certification—streamlining and shortening what had previously been a lengthy process handled by volunteers. He went on to serve as a staff liaison on multiple NCARB committees, including the committee designing NCARB’s pilot experience program, and eventually became the first director of the IDP. 

In 1980, Balen was promoted to the position of NCARB Executive Vice President (now the Chief Executive Officer), taking the helm for the launch of both the ARE in 1983 and the requirement that applicants for certification (and licensure in many jurisdictions) hold a degree from a National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) accredited program in 1984. Balen also advocated for increased international reciprocity, working with NCARB’s counterparts around the world to establish mutual recognition arrangements.

“Sam was a tireless advocate for our focus on protecting the public and in carving out our distinct and unique role within the architect community. For those who worked for him and served with him, Sam was known for his direct delivery, passion for the NCARB mission, and his enjoyment of fellowship with his colleagues in the United States and around the world,” said current NCARB CEO Michael Armstrong.

Born in Chicago, Balen served in the Army during the Korean War prior to becoming an architect, and was awarded two Bronze Service Stars, a National Defense Service Medal, and a United Nations Service Medal. He earned a degree in architecture from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana in 1957 and became licensed shortly after.

Before joining NCARB, Balen served on what was then the Western Region of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), becoming president in 1966. He was elevated to AIA College of Fellows in 1978, and was one of seven recipients of the Gold Alpha Rho Chi Medal, which he received in 1999. In 1997, Balen and his wife Ruth were awarded the NCARB President’s Medal for Distinguished Service for their contributions to NCARB, the public, and the regulation of architecture.