Late Texas Tech alumnus Bill Smith completed many projects across campus. His last project though, will outlive him.
In this article, the Office of Communications & Marketing has permitted the use of the Oxford comma to honor the strong grammatical preferences of the late Mr. Smith, as we do not wish to invoke any frowns from the hereafter.
Jack Smith vividly remembers one morning he spent with his brother Bill.
“Bill, my wife, and I were spending a morning together having coffee when we came across a story in the Dallas Morning News,” Jack said. “It was poorly written, and it got us talking about how communication is quickly becoming a lost art in society.”
This topic became a fervent conviction of Bill's, and it culminated in one particular opinion – the Oxford comma.
“I am not sure why Bill felt so strongly about that comma,” Jack said. “I suspect it was an outgrowth of the era in which he was educated.”
The more Bill saw the decrease in quality communication, the more passionately he leaned into small things like his beloved comma.
“We would joke about how much language has changed because of its frequent misuse,” Jack said. “Bill even read style guides in his spare time.”
Bill had strong opinions because he believed if an idea was worth communicating, it was worth communicating well.
In 2020, Bill passed away, but he left a gift to his alma mater to ensure students with great designs could communicate them.
Texas Tech University's College of Architecture has announced a faculty endowment in honor of its late alumnus, Bill Smith. The endowment was officially presented on Sept. 12 by Smith's family in partnership with the college.
“We are grateful to see Texas Tech honor Bill's wishes and legacy,” said Jack.
Bill's donation to the university was given to increase the availability of study and development in architecture design communication, an interdisciplinary need Bill saw in the industry.
“Bill's generosity allows the College of Architecture to continue moving forward in a progressive and innovative way,” said Upe Flueckiger, dean of the College of Architecture. “It is not without foresight that Bill's faculty endowment was named for design communication, as these are two essential ingredients for success as an architect. The College of Architecture is grateful to Bill for his kindness; it will greatly benefit the college and the education of our students.”
Jack remembers when Bill first got the idea for the endowment.
Bill was serving as president of an architecture firm at the time, and Jack was consulting with Fortune 500 companies.
“We observed these high-paid, brilliant leaders were functionally great at what they did, but really couldn't communicate to save their lives.”
For Bill, his passion was architecture, which is largely about technology and technique. But he saw this same shortfall when it came to architects being able to communicate their work to broader audiences.
Thus, the idea for an endowment was born.
“Since Bill's death, it's been my job to see that his wishes are carried out,” Jack said. “One such wish was that Texas Tech would make design communication an enhanced part of its architecture program.”
The College of Architecture is one of the most heavily recruited-from schools in the nation, and Bill wanted to add to that success. By funding an emphasis on design communication and distilling it into the curriculum, Bill hoped to amplify the practical impact architects have.
Bill credited the College of Architecture for shaping him both professionally and personally.
Bill loved his time as a Red Raider. Originally on scholarship for the university's then-swim and dive team, Bill quickly realized he wouldn't be able to balance both athletics and the demands of the architecture program.
After thinking about the longevity of a swim career versus one in architecture, Bill traded his speedo for a sketchbook.
“I was eight years younger than Bill,” Jack said. “I remember coming to visit him at the college when I was 10 years old and Bill calling Texas Tech ‘Harvard on the Plains.'”
After graduating from Texas Tech in 1963, Bill moved to Dallas to work for George Dahl, a distinguished architecture firm. However, one year later, Bill was intrigued by working for a new, up-and-coming firm called Jarvis Putty Jarvis (JPJ).
Bill went on to serve as the firm's principal and in 1980, its president. JPJ was Bill's professional home for the entirety of his career.
His career included many high-profile projects, some of which are part of the Dallas skyline. But there were other projects near to Bill's heart.
Anyone at Texas Tech today can enjoy the state-of-the-art Robert H. Ewalt Student Recreation Center. But the facility hasn't always been what it is today. Bill returned to his alma mater to design a contemporary solution that integrated modernism with the mandated Spanish Renaissance style of campus architecture. The project received a design award from the Texas Society of Architects.
During his career, JPJ won more than 65 design awards for national, state, and local projects.
Bill also served in many board positions and ultimately as president of the American Institute of Architects. In 2007, the organization presented Bill with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
Even after retirement in 2003, Bill stayed active by donating his time to people around the country. His projects ranged from church rebuilds to serving as an expert witness in legal cases.
In his biography, one thing Bill was clear about was the need to keep growing and learning. He left this parting thought: “Imagination is more important than knowledge” – an idea Bill embodied in conceptualizing a new faculty position. After all, imagining what things could be is the very heart of architecture.
And that is the legacy Bill has left.
A legacy of imagination, growth, and grammatical precision.