My 'Why' Story and Emerging Professionals: by Sara Katz, AIA

I was involved with the AIA Rochester Chapter as the Associate Director from 2011-2013. I met so many wonderful people and some of my closest colleagues and friends. It was a whirlwind of time planning educational events, waking the Emerging Rochester Architects group from its hiatus and bringing energy and excitement to an architectural industry struggling through an economic downturn.


Once my term was over, I continued to attend and help plan ERA/AIA events but soon work, studying for licensure exams and life in general seemed to absorb my time. I wasn’t as active in recent years but I attended the AIA Annual Meeting in 2017 and was inspired by all the activity and involvement of our local chapter and its members. At the Holiday Party that year, Linda Hewitt informed me there was a spot opening up on The Architectural Foundation of Greater Rochester Board (AFGR or Foundation for short).


I quickly learned The Foundation is a group of highly passionate Architects/Designers who want to see our community grow and flourish while spending much of their own time and resources reaching out to others to help spread the word. I am excited to be able to play a part in a group that represents such strong values.

For those not familiar with the Foundation, our mission statement is as follows, “The Architectural Foundation of Greater Rochester’s  mission is to promote and enhance the practice of architecture as a cultural, artistic and business resource in the region. We advocate for the architectural community and built environment and provide scholarship opportunities to regional students pursuing a career in Architecture. We also partner with government, professional, education, community and arts organizations to increase our reach and impact”

As Tom Zimmerman, The Foundation’s current President, stated, “The Scholarship Program begun by AIA Rochester is the keystone of the Foundation’s efforts. We work closely with local education at the high school and college level to provide programs and support for students.”


At the 2014 AIA annual meeting, there were four scholarships awarded and 35 individuals/organizations who contributed. In 2016, we were up to seven scholarship and in 2017 -  10 scholarships!   This has been made possible by numerous donors, notably including AIA National, AIA Rochester, The Architectural Foundation of Greater Rochester, Bergmann,  The Family of Myron Starks, AIA (Memorial Scholarship), and Penny Haley, AIA from the Women in Architecture Program.


During my time on the Board, I hope to help promote awareness and aid in the Foundation’s growth financially.  I hope to encourage people to step out of the box and explore their creativity while providing guidance and lessons learned from my mentors.


The timing of the my return to the Board and involvement couldn’t have been better. AIA Rochester is celebrating its centennial and the A/E and construction industry is as busy as ever. Many of the prominent architectural leaders of the community are transitioning from their professional careers to a well-deserved retirement.  This in turn means, the next generation will need to continue that legacy and “foundation” they have built for us. There are many emerging professionals involved in AIA Rochester and the Foundation and some that have had multiple terms and positions. Kirstin Purdy from SWBR, who has recently been nominated for the RBJ 40 Under 40 Award, has served as both Education Director and Communications Director for the AIA Rochester Board and joined The Foundation Board a few years ago. When asked what keeps her coming back or staying involved she stated, “Its mission resonates with me… I think back to the people who provided me with career insight and opportunities over the years during high school and college, I would not be where I am today without that support and education. Many of these people are still involved in AIA and the Foundation.”


Troy Williams, a recent addition to the Foundation Board, has lived all over the country attaining his education and developing his professional career. He landed here in Rochester in 2012 with a job offer and chose to join the Foundation in 2018, to outreach to students in order to share the benefits of an education in the arts and help develop collaboration not only within the community but its organizations as well.


Such exponential growth is astounding and possible only due to the generosity of our contributors, past and active members, and my fellow board members.  The impacts of the Foundation’s efforts are easily felt as the architecture community in Rochester continues to grow and strengthen.


Current board members of The Architectural Foundation of Greater Rochester:

Thomas Zimmerman, FAIA - Board President

Jim Durfee, AIA

Richard Pospula, AIA

Sean Phelan, Associate AIA

Kristin Purdy, AIA

Troy Williams, Associate AIA

Sara Katz, AIA

Paul Visca -Board

Advisor Linda Hewitt - Executive Director


Sara Katz, AIA is a board member of the Architectural Foundation of Greater Rochester and an architect at CPL.