Lunch With a Luminary

A group of Centerbrook colleagues joined me recently for lunch with Beverly Willis, FAIA, at her lovely home overlooking Long Island Sound. Beverly looms large in our profession as a trailblazer who achieved notoriety at a time when women were only beginning to find their voice.

Beverly’s myriad contributions are legendary. Her San Francisco Ballet building was the first of its kind. She co-founded the National Building Museum. She revamped innovative spatial-analysis software for architectural use that foreshadowed computer-aided design. And she founded not only her own firm but a foundation dedicated to celebrating women’s contributions to architecture.

Dressed in her trademark white, Beverly was a gracious host full of advice, good humor, and a bright energy that belied her 91 years. She encouraged the emerging professionals among us to find our voice, to do our homework, to express our opinions, and to build a robust professional network outside the office. We reflected on challenges we’ve encountered and Beverly expounded on strategies that we shared.

Beverly’s forthright manner is always energizing, but the way she unquestioningly affirms strengthens confidence into greater determination. She’s a rare treasure. We all came away truly inspired and grateful for our time together with her.

Top Photo: Beverly Willis seated with, from left to right, Sarah Afragola, Cassie Archer, Agatha Pestilli, Sarah Johnson, Kas Leiva, Tanya Gianitsos, Minnu Srinivasan, Sheryl Milardo, Patricia Valdez, and Sue Wyeth

The San Francisco Ballet is credited as the first building in the U.S. designed exclusively for the use of a ballet company and school. (Brunelleschi9/Wikimedia Commons)

The San Francisco Ballet is credited as the first building in the U.S. designed exclusively for the use of a ballet company and school. (Brunelleschi9/Wikimedia Commons)