Class Acts: Former student news

The College of Architecture encourages former students to submit news items for the Class Acts section of the arch|one e-newsletter. This section highlights professional achievements, as well as news briefs about marriages, births, retirements, bucket list accomplishments or whatever else former students care to share with the college community and their former classmates. News and photos may be e-mailed directly to the editor.



Mark Stewart BED ’74, MARCH ’75 owns Mark Stewart Watercolor, creating original watercolor paintings and limited edition prints of landscape portrait and still life subjects. 

“Studying architecture at Texas A&M helped me see the value of discipline in the creative process,” said Stewart, featured in the spring 2016 issue of Spirit, published by the Texas A&M Foundation. ““I don’t see the need to forsake reality, and I enjoy going deep into the subject. While my work is personal, I do not wish to become so introspective that I shun traditional forms. Neither is my desire to slavishly copy nature, but rather to observe it clearly and create a personal expression.”



Debra J. Dockery BED ’75, MARCH ’77, is the new chairwoman of the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners, an agency that oversees the examination, registration and professional regulation of architects, interior designers, and landscape architects. Dockery, appointed to the post by Texas governor Greg Abbott, previously served as the board’s vice chairwoman.

She also heads Debra J. Dockery, Architect, P.C., a San Antonio-based, full-service architectural firm, where she earned the Texas Society of Architects’ 2015 Mentorship Award for her firm's exemplary mentorship program and her personal commitment to advancing emerging professionals. 



John Murphy BDCR ‘82, MSCOMG ‘83, Ph.D. ARCH ‘93 has been named the Roland K. Blumberg Endowed Professor in Architecture at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Murphy, dean of the UTSA College of Architecture, Construction and Planning, has created three outreach and research centers, added the Department of Construction Science and expanded the college’s international studies programs since becoming dean in 2009.

“We are so pleased to recognize Murphy’s achievements by appointing him as the Blumberg professor,” said John H. Frederick, UTSA provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This endowment will allow him to further expand the college’s research and professional outreach activities in support of students.”



Gary Mitchell, MUP ’88, has been named president of Kendig Keast Collaborative, a Sugar Land, Texas-based community planning and plan implementation firm. 

After earning a master’s degree under the mentorship of Texas A&M associate professor emeritus David Pugh, Mitchell has created plans at the city, county and regional levels.  His portfolio includes nearly 40 comprehensive plans – in communities ranging from 2,000 to 200,000 people – with consulting engagements completed in 14 states.  

Since 1999, 12 communities he has assisted have received awards from divisions of the American Planning Association for outstanding urban planning, including recognitions in 2015 for comprehensive plans in Belleville, Illinois, and Gillette, Wyoming.



Sam Mandola, BED ’90 senior project manager in Parsons’ Houston office, recently discussed cultural, ethical, legal, and political considerations of doing business in Russia and Libya to a Cultural and Ethical Considerations for Global Practice class at Texas A&M led by Rodney Hill, professor of architecture. Mandola’s presentation highlighted the rigors, challenges, and opportunities of a global business practice, as well as the application of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  He has been invited by the university to guest lecture on a variety of topics every year since 2008. 



Michelle Robinson, BED ’91, a look development supervisor in Walt Disney Animation Studios, helped create a city of animals in “Zootopia,” the studio’s latest hit movie. She and her fellow animators used Disney’s XGen, an advanced animation tool, to create lifelike hair on the rabbits, mice, foxes and other animals in the film.

“We can’t hand-place every hair—and we don’t even necessarily want to place every hundredth hair,” said Robinson. “XGen is a system by which, through a set of controls, either painting on the character or placing a few specific hairs, it can then interpolate and generate all the rest of the hair by proxy.”


Jason Barlow BED ’91, a senior technical director at Industrial Light and Magic, helped create the memorable attacking bear scene in the “The Revenant.” Barlow and a group of digital "magicians" were tasked with creating a photo-realistic bear that mauls Leonardo DiCaprio in broad daylight for almost 5 minutes of screen time. The scene garnered considerable industry buzz, helping the movie earn 12 Academy Award nominations and DiCaprio’s first Oscar.



Shawn Evans BED ’93 has been promoted to principal of Atkin Olshin Schade Architects. Evans manages the firm’s Santa Fe office, which he helped establish in 2005, and has led many of the firm’s preservation projects at historic sites and institutions, including Cherokee Castle in Colorado, Ohkay Owingeh in New Mexico, Fort Apache in Arizona, as well as the Eastern State Penitentiary and Penn Museum in Pennsylvania. 

Evans discussed his career path and the firm’s projects in an interview on the firm’s website.



Diana Houghton Whiting, BED ’98, pictured with her daughter, Josephine, is pursuing a Ph.D. in general psychology, with an emphasis in technology, education and psychology, at Grand Canyon University. 

She earned a Master of Somatic Counseling degree, with a concentration in body psychotherapy, from Naropa University in 2013. In body psychotherapy, a therapist and patient access explicit memories held in the mind that can be examined and discussed, and implicit memories stored in the body that are communicated through movement.



Derrick Evers BDCR ‘99 is CEO and managing partner at Kaizen Development Partners, a commercial development, project management, brokerage and leasing firm that concentrates on developing healthcare projects. Before co-founding Kaizen in May 2015, Evers was CEO at Neal Richards Group. He has extensive project management experience in a wide range of projects, including healthcare, government, corporate and academic developments.



Benjamin Johnston BED ’02, a principal designer and owner of Avondale Design Studio in Houston, won Modern Luxury Interiors Magazine’s 2016 Best Bedroom Design Award. Johnston collaborates with clients, craftsmen and artists to spaces that are refined, glamorous reflections of their clients.



Jennifer Walker BED ’05 MARCH ’07 was appointed by Texas governor Greg Abbott to serve as a member of the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners, an agency that oversees the examination, registration and professional regulation of architects, interior designers, and landscape architects.

Walker is president of JNW Architects, LLC, a family-owned firm in Lampasas, Texas founded in 2012.



Jim Gibbs, BED ’06, a supervisor at Atomic Fiction, a visual effects studio, was one of the experts quoted in a movie effects blog entry that explored the requirements of a “good” visual effect in an age of seamlessly integrated effects. 

"Visual effects that receive acclaim are well woven into the filmmaking process,” said Gibbs. “They develop clever ways, and/or new technologies, to help achieve the director's vision with the resources available.”



Studio Neat, created by Dan Provost BED ’07 and Thomas Gerhardt BED ’07, is the model for an entirely new, modern company where anyone can make something “cool” and sell it anywhere, said David Pierce in a Wired magazine article. They’ve created the Glif, a tripod mount and stand for smartphones, the Neat Ice Kit, a set of tools to create ice for at-home cocktails, and other hit products.

Crowdfunding, 3-D printing, and a flourishing ecosystem of companies designed to help hardware companies make things have enabled Provost and Gerhardt to build a global business with two standing desks, two iMacs, and a 3-D printer, said Pierce.



 Leslie K. Brians, MARCH ’09 has been awarded the Fort Bragg, N.C. Military Spouse of the Year award by the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year program. She has been married to U.S. Army Maj. Obadiah Brians for six years, a time span that has included two of her husband’s deployments and three duty stations.

"I couldn't be more proud of Brians for achieving this honor,” said Army Col. Colin Tuley. “She has devoted countless hours to improving our military community and continues to positively impact those around her. Our families are the backbone behind the force and without them, we wouldn't be able to fulfill our mission."



Nick Oyler MUP ’12 was named to the 20<30 2016, a list of residents shaping the city’s future compiled by the Memphis Flyer, a weekly alternative newspaper. Oyler is a transportation planner/bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization, a regional agency tasked with planning the transportation network for the greater Memphis area.



Michael Dwight BDCR ’93, has been promoted to director of operations in Hensel Phelps Construction Company’s Southwest District. Since joining Hensel Phelps in 1993 as a field engineer, Phelps has earned a series of promotions to office engineer, project engineer, area superintendent, project manager, operations manager, and director of operations. He has participated in federal, detention, aviation, healthcare, and high-tech construction projects.


posted September 30, 2016