After 16 years leading the organization as executive director, Jane Jarrett is stepping down from her leadership position at the Architecture Foundation of Oregon.
"It's been fabulous," Jarrett told the Business Tribune. "It's been one of the best experiences of an otherwise really exciting career."
Her vacancy will take effect Dec. 31, 2017.
Architecture Foundation of Oregon (AFO) is a statewide nonprofit foundation dedicated to sharing design's role in shaping the future of the built environment. The organization's operating budget has grown from $100,000 to $800,000 and its endowment fund has grown from $75,000 to $400,000.
"It's a really good time for AFO to see a transition, it just seemed like good timing," Jarrett said. "It's really healthy right now, the staff is really strong, the board is really strong, so it's a good time for a new person to come in and get acclimated."
Jarrett was AFO's only employee in 2001 when she started working half-time. She is now one of four full-time staff members.
"I have other things in my personal life I need to take care of these days, including an aging mother," Jarrett said.
She said she doesn't have plans to set off for another career just yet — "I'm going to give myself at least a year off."
Jarrett is the second executive director of the AFO after Jody Proppe, Hon. AIA who served from 1982-2002.
"During the nearly 14 years that I've worked with Jane Jarrett, I've been fortunate to learn, grow, be patiently mentored and guided by her generous leadership," said colleague Kim Knowles, associate director of Architects in Schools at the AFO. "Time and time again, she has lead by example — empowering those around her to find their strengths and contribute to their fullest. She is quick to show appreciation and support as well as clarity when it's needed. Her direction is clear and gracious. She has enabled AFO to be strong, growing and a pleasure to be a part of. All of the above is what draws people to Jane, making them want to do their best for the vision she lays out so well. She is an extraordinary person to work with and to know."
founding members John Matteson, AIA, William Fletcher, FAIA, Brooks Gunsul, FAIA, William Merrit, AIA, Gary Michael, FAIA, Richard E. Ritz, AIA, Jon Schleuning, FAIA, and Roger Yost, FAIA, began the Architecture Foundation of Oregon in 1981.
Five founding firms provided initial funding for the fledgling foundation: BORA Architects, Skidmore Owings & Merrill, SRG Partnership, Yost Grube Hall Architects and Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership. Each contributed $5,000 to help fund an endowment and incorporated AFO as a not-for-profit Oregon corporation in 1983.
"It's a good place to stay. It's very rewarding work, and you get to work with some really amazing people in the community," Jarrett said. "As with much nonprofit work, there is no end to the things you can do if you gather the resources. There are always wonderful challenges awaiting to be conquered."
She will spend her final year as ED solidifying programs and operations, assisting in the transition process, completing the final $35,000 matching funds for a $100,000 endowment fund challenge, part of a total $300,000 legacy gift. She will also continue to further AFO's strategic plans relative to civic engagement and communications.
"Jane has been a passionate leader of AFO for the past 16 years. Her contributions are innumerable and we will miss her. She inherited a fledgling organization that was looking to grow and expand its reach, and she has far exceeded any expectations in all that she's achieved. Jane's influence and legacy will live on long into the future as the organization continues to mature," said Roderick Ashley, FAIA, president of the AFO board of directors.
A search committee has been appointed, including current and former board members and a few members of the community. The search will be national and local to the region and begin in early April. The AFO hopes to have the new director named by the end of the summer, led by long-time board member Anne Monnier of KPFF Consulting Engineers.
Legacy of Jane Jarrett
Under Jarrett's leadership, AFO developed its first-ever membership program and saw its hallmark program, the six-week Architects in Schools residency, grow — which Jarrett told the Business Tribune was one of her favorite experiences while serving as executive director.
"This program places design professionals as volunteers in classes for third to fifth grade students, and they work with the teachers to develop six-week programs we train them for," Jarrett said. "When we started, there were 800 kids a year in the program in the Portland metro area. Now there are about 4,500 in the program in five metro areas in Portland."
Inspired by the first Earth Day, a team led by Oregon architect Marjorie Wintermute FAIA created the program over a five-year period with the goal of developing awareness and understanding responsibility to the natural environment, career awareness, and communication skills through the principles and practices of architecture and design. It addresses understanding of design's potential for excellence in the continued development of the state, and standard-rich content for increasingly stretched teachers and systems in Oregon's schools.
"It's a really great program that really teaches the kids to look around and think about things in a different way — to think about the impact the built environment has on their lives and how they can make a good decision," Jarrett said. "It's kind of the built environment version of outdoor school — only it's indoor school."
Another defining moment for Jarrett was back in 2010 when the region was looking at adding a new bridge across the Columbia River along I-5.
In 2010, she and AFO worked with the independent design collective PDXplore to produce a week-long forum, "Crossing The Columbia: What Does It Mean?" to help the region's residents understand many of the complex challenges and questions created by the proposed new bridge.
"At the time, there was so much impact both in downtown Vancouver where it met the street there, and along Hayden Island where it was going across, and further south where it was going into Portland to meet the ground there weren't being addressed," Jarrett said. "We felt we really had a successful week of people coming in and seeing exhibits and opening up theirs minds to think of implications to how the building would be designed."
In the summer of 2013, the Washington State Legislature declined to provide that state's share of funding for the project, closing the book on their participation after 20 years and millions of dollars that had been invested.
"One of these days, I expect somebody's going to do something over that area again," Jarrett said. "We hope those design considerations are made again."