Harold Adams ’61, who worked with President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy on federal building projects, then later led the transformation of a one-office architectural firm in Baltimore to a global practice with projects in more than 60 countries, received an honorary doctor of letters degree from Texas A&M at spring 2019 commencement.
The degree is the latest in a very long line of awards and honors for Adams, who joined the Texas A&M College of Architecture in fall 2018 as a professor of the practice.
“Adams has enriched the college’s intellectual climate and educational experience and raised the national and international stature of the college’s faculty and students,” said Jorge Vanegas, dean of the college. “He has also inspired collaboration in multidisciplinary scholarly endeavors and strengthened efforts in teaching, application and engagement.”
Adams made a name for himself as an architect just four months after earning a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Texas A&M in 1962, moving to Washington D.C. to work with President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy on building projects in the nation’s capital. Adams was later the project manager for the president’s gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery.
As chief executive officer and chairman of RTKL Associates in Baltimore, he oversaw the one-office firm’s explosive growth into a global practice with offices in Madrid, London, Tokyo and Shanghai, and established the firm’s worldwide reputation for design and management expertise.
During his time at RTKL, the firm’s projects included rebuilding the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States Capitol Visitor Center, the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington D.C., the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, a Baltimore major league baseball stadium that began a retro-ballpark trend.
The American Institute of Architects awarded Adams, who retired in 2003, with two of its highest honors, the Kemper Medal, for his leadership in the profession, and membership in its College of Fellows. Adams also served as chancellor of the College of Fellows in 1997-98.
Adams was one of the first United States citizens to hold a first class Kenchikushi license, an architecture license awarded by Japan's Ministry of Construction, and is also a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
An Outstanding Alumnus of the College of Architecture, Adams has a long record of service to the college, frequently visiting classes to lecture and meet with student groups.
He has sought opportunities to expand the college’s interdisciplinary research and teaching culture across the university by endowing professorships in each of the college’s four departments with a focus on interdisciplinary projects.
Professorship holders, Adams and college administrators organized the Harold L. Adams Interdisciplinary Charrette for Undergraduates, a highly successful, weekend-long multidepartment design competition first held in 2018 to overcome the silo effect in academia that tends to isolate students and faculty within their own departments. Another Adams interdisciplinary charrette took place in February 2019.
A Distinguished Alumnus of Texas A&M, he serves on the university’s Chancellor’s Council, Texas A&M’s Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS), the College Development Advisory Council, the College of Architecture Dean’s Advisory Board and the Construction Industry Advisory Council, where he helped promote the development of a leadership minor.
In 2014-15, he served as a TIAS Faculty Fellow, now known as a Hagler Institute for Advanced Study fellow.
Adams has also bestowed a number of gifts to the college, including the Harold L. Adams ’61 Endowed Scholarship and a recent $100,000 donation for the new Janice L. and Harold L. Adams ’61 Presentation room, which will bring college departments together in interdisciplinary and diversity efforts.