Degree: Bachelor of Science in Architecture; Master of Architecture and Civil Engineering; Master of Divinity
Current City: Landberg, Pennsylvania
Hometowns: Colorado; Robinson, Illinois; Phoenix, Arizona; New Mexico
Joined Alpha Rho Chi in: 1988
MK: What made you join Alpha Rho Chi?
GP: I joined Alpha Rho Chi in my sophomore year. I had no interest in fraternity life whatsoever, but my roommates were all architecture students and dragged me to an open house. I met the people, and I was hooked.
MK: At what point did you decide to make the career change from an architect to a minister?
GP: My wife (who is also a brother) and I were in Charlotte working at an architecture firm and had kids. After my first daughter was born, I decided I wanted to be a stay at home dad to be with my kids. I was still doing a few architecture projects on the side, though. We moved to Iowa and I got involved in the Unitarian Church that my wife belonged to. Her family has many ministers and when I arrived at the church and told them I was an architect, they threw me on the committee to help with the church renovation. They then started to ask me if I wanted to lead any sermons, and then if I wanted to become a minister. I had never considered being a minister before, but was really excited about the idea for another academic degree. I enrolled in the Lombard Theological School in Chicago, and earned my Master of Divinity in 2014 to become a minister.
MK: Do you feel like you wasted your time in architecture school?
GP: I don’t feel any time was wasted; designers are taught to think differently, and I use design thinking every day. Designers are taught that there isn’t just one answer to a problem, which I find extremely relevant.
MK: Do you find yourself missing architecture?
GP: I never really cared about the buildings – what intrigued me was the process. I loved working with people and the teams I got to be a part of, but I found I was least enthusiastic about the final result. Of course I can appreciate a great building, but then I want to know more about what the decision process was and who was there to help make that decision than what the product is.
MK: How did this change in career path integrate with your active involvement with Alpha Rho Chi?
GP: Let’s start with my fraternity involvement; I was first appointed Worthy Grand Scribe in 1995, during my final year of graduate school. I served two years as Ted Ertl’s Grand Advisor. In 2000, I ran for WGA and served for 6 years. After 11 years on the board, on my way out the Grand Council door, I said to my good friend from Anthemios Laura Schmidt, that if she ran for WGA, I would be her Grand Advisor – and that’s just what happened.
My daughter was also born in 2000, when I was elected WGA. At the time, my wife and I were both working part time in architecture, although that didn’t work out too well. I was in the midst of taking the AREs then and became licensed in North Carolina and New York, but technically stopped practicing in 2010 when I started Seminary School.
MK: Did your perspective regarding your involvement with Alpha Rho Chi change throughout seminary school?
GP: I think I became more of myself throughout Seminary School – it helped bring me clarity. I was taught to look at the long view – how to have a vision and look down the road. We as people have such short attention spans nowadays. With ministry and Alpha Rho Chi, it’s incredibly powerful to have a long view – to say, “I don’t know how it will work, but I have a picture and we should work to get there”.
MK: What keeps you enthusiastic about Alpha Rho Chi?
GP: I love the people. These are amazing people who are insanely creative and intelligent and love what they are doing. The Grand Council gives up countless vacation days to go to Fraternity events and it always feels worth it. There is such a sense of pride that it is incredibly rewarding.
MK: Any advice for brothers out there?
GP: Design education is valuable on many levels, and if you find out it’s not for you, it doesn’t mean that you have failed. There’s not just one way to design, and not just one path. Sometimes you have to trust what people tell you, though – they may recognize something in you that you can’t quite see for yourself. If it wasn’t for Alpha Rho Chi I wouldn’t have changed so easily.