A Lifetime of Love for Family, and Architecture

Jerome Leslie Eben, AIA

Jerome Leslie Eben, FAIA

West Orange, NJ
February 14, 2017

On Friday, January 27th, NJ Architect Jerome Leslie Eben, FAIA, was sorting his thoughts in preparation of sharing his passion with more than 50 students at the 7th annual Pacific Cascade Middle School Career Fair in Issaquah, WA. Jerry had flown across the country from his home in West Orange, NJ to Issaquah, WA to share this very special event with his grandson, Alex Kernish.  On that day, classes of 6th, 7th and 8th graders would hear Mr. Eben speak on his profession, being an architect!  Jerry’s goal in making these presentations, estimated to have reached more than 10,000 people over the last 30 years, has always been to explain that the role of the architect in society is vital, protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public, through the buildings that architects design.

How did this long distance invitation from the principal come to be, over the possibility of recruiting a local professional to visit the children? Alex’s mother, Dena, knows that there is no greater cheerleader for the cause than her beloved father, and submitted his contact information for consideration.

In Jerry’s toolkit were a few dozen of the beautiful photographs taken by Alexander Noble for the decade old AIA-NJ 150 Buildings and Places exhibit. Jerry’s confident that his nostalgic, historical storytelling, interwoven with the images, formed a lasting memory for a lot of these young adults.  He does not doubt that after leaving the classroom, they did look up at some of the wonderful architecture that is nestled so well within the natural and planted landscape of Issaquah, including their own beautiful school, provided by a board that understands the value of quality and consistency in their built environment, an so employs a district architect to provide all of the services to their school community. He knows that the seeds have been planted for some of these youngsters to come east for vacation with their families, seeking a trip back in time at the Edison Museum or maybe to consider applying to college in some of the magnificent halls shared in the images of Rutgers and Princeton.

He explained to them that if they like to draw, build, create or experiment with structures they should consider architecture as a career.  He stated that “it is a profession that you can continue to do into old age” and mentioned, Gilbert Seltzer, AIA, from West Orange, who goes to work every day and is more than a century young!

Jerry taught the importance of building codes, explaining why big buildings have at least two means of egress, sprinklers and rules about occupancy and use.  He encouraged that on their visits to the local movie theater or shopping mall, (and especially if they are on their own) that they need to be cognizant of where they are and that sometimes the way in to a building is not the fastest way out!

Jerry conveyed the role of the American Institute of Architects, the international, professional society, which has and continues to support architects, now in its 160th year, with continuing education, career advice, contracts and political advocacy, and most of all unification, providing one voice for architects to share and promote their values.

Jerry encourages us all to take some time out to go to a local school and speak about what it is that we do. It can be a real benefit for these young people and us, because those who do not choose to become architects may be our clients, and an informed person makes a better client!

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