At the 80th Annual Conference in Galveston, 2019 President Mike Hellinghausen, AIA, announced the establishment of a new Honor Award, named after John Saunders Chase Jr. FAIA, to recognize the efforts of individuals, programs, or firms who have made strides in advancing EDI through their practice or in the profession. The creation of the award was spearheaded by TxA’s EDI Task Force, chaired by Nicki Marrone, AIA.
In alignment with AIA’s efforts to “ensure the profession is as diverse as the nation it serves,” the EDI Task Force is charged with championing “a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion within the profession until such practices become mainstream.” The committee, said Marrone, felt strongly that the new award should recognize Chase, a TxA member who was both a pioneer in the field and an advocate in promoting EDI in practice.
Chase was a trailblazer who achieved a number of firsts in his lifetime: He was the first African American to enroll in and graduate from The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, the first licensed African American architect in the state of Texas, and the first African American to be admitted to the Texas Society of Architects.
Upon graduation, Chase was met with open discrimination as he began searching for employment. When white firms would not hire him, he shifted his focus to passing the state examination and then founded his own firm, not only to have the opportunity to shape public spaces, but also to hire and create opportunities for other black drafters, engineers, and architects. His firm went on to open offices in Dallas, Houston, Austin, and Washington D.C., and Chase became one of the founders of the National Organization of Minority Architects.
Several members of the Chase family, including the architect’s wife, Drucie Chase, son Tony Chase, and daughter Saundria Chase Grey, were in attendance at the Annual Conference’s Third Keynote Session to share in the announcement of the award, and Tony Chase shared recollections of his father with attendees.
TxA is pleased to recognize Chase’s life and legacy with the establishment of this award.