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Community News

Jan 18, 2017

The accidental two-term president

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Header image: Boston cityscape. Credit: Bert Kaufmann, creative commons license, modified.

So…it is the second meeting of the BSA Executive Committee on the top floor of 52 Broad Street. Nancy Jenner Hon. BSA and the BSA’s executive director, Richard Fitzgerald, are there, and a Diet Coke awaits our new president, Rebecca Barnes FAIA. Not the most punctual person, but I certainly can’t claim that title either. We’re making small talk, and Rebecca comes in with a rather wry smile. “I have something to tell you all,” she says, not making a lot of eye contact. “You see, I have been offered the position of chief planner for the City of Boston.” Congratulations are said by all, and then she adds, “But I have to step down as BSA president.” From that moment, I became a two-term president without a vice president and with a lot to do.

I found that beginning foreshadowed a fabulous adventure ahead. What each president knows is the amazing support and encouragement we all get from the staff, Richard, and an amazingly committed board. Though there is always a dark cloud or two, this is an amazing organization, and to lead it for a moment in time is a privilege, an honor, an education, and it has an impact on you for life.

My toughest task was writing to our membership after the September 11 attacks. Professionally we spend so much of our time creating beautiful, functional, and safe environments in which people can live, work, and play. To see that work destroyed with so many casualties; innocent, decent people, well…the moment continues to haunt me.

The greatest part of my presidency was participating in the Central Artery Task Force. This was a great group of activists who formed to help guide the park system that would replace the elevated Central Artery. What is amazing about our city and the BSA is the commitment of our citizens, professional and lay, who will give serious time to improve the public process and the quality of our built environment. The task force did good work, and the parks are now an integral and dynamic part of this great city. Even more important, our waterfront is now connected to our downtown and full of 24/7 living and working activities.

Many events, awards, and activities filled my two years, and even though it was a double commitment, I felt that after the first term I finally understood what the role was. You listen, you prod, and you make connections that leverage the most out of the organization and its members for the benefit of our community.

Congratulations to the most successful, fun, energetic, and dedicated group of architects, consultants, and designers who make up the BSA. Forever push to make design relevant and an integral part of all of our lives.

Robert A. Brown AIA, 2001–2002 BSA president