Metagenes Charter member
Virginia Tech–Bachelor of Architecture, 1972
Master of Architecture and Urban Design, 1975
Current City: Williamsburg, VA
Hometown: Franklin, VA
Initiated in 1969
Brother Hunter Bristow is the University Architect at Christopher Newport University, Newport News, VA. He has held this position for over seventeen years. The job allows him to practice the whole process of architecture, including design and decision making, building code enforcement and inspections, construction management, and so on. With only a year left before retiring, along with two others retiring (whom all together have a total of 142 years of experience) a whole turnover will be coming soon. Luckily, Hunter does have a brother currently working with him, Architect Michelle Campbell. He explains, “Never pass up the opportunity in life, because you never know what it’s going to lead to.” Michelle is poised to take over his position because of a simple request for an experience reference for the ARE exam over 6 years ago.
Maggie Kleinman: As a charter member of the Metagenes Chapter, what are your strongest memories of the process it took to become a chapter?
Hunter Bristow: During my sophomore year, 1969, I saw a notice that Troy Watson and Mark Kavanaugh posted about a meeting to discuss the opportunity to bring Alpha Rho Chi to Virginia Tech. At the time, AIAS at the school wasn’t very active nor appealing, and we had 25 people show up to that first APX interest meeting. We ended up having 16 people start the pledge process–none of whom dropped out. We were excited to form a new group and connect to more people. Even though I never was interested in joining a fraternity, Alpha Rho Chi presented both social and professional privileges. I quickly learned that no one else was going to understand what it meant to be a part of this fraternity, besides those in it and those to come in the future due to our initiatives.
Sophomore year was my first best year at Virginia Tech. All of them were great. It was in the Spring when Metagenes was installed as a chapter, and later before the end of the school year we initiated the Alpha class and really got the ball rolling, and that allowed us to get a house for the coming year. Initiation was a process that only makes sense after you’ve been through it. I learned how powerful this organization was that I was about to join, and was so grateful when I finally made it through. I found initiation to be a metaphor in life: that I was made to think about what I was going through and wonder what was coming next, but I couldn’t control it and did not know until it was happening, yet I was supported the whole way through by the people around me. It really symbolized to me how you need people by your side as checks and balances, and since initiation, I never questioned my involvement–I knew I had made the right lifelong commitment.
MK: Did you have any positions as a student brother?
HB: I was Ritual Chaplain for two years, and I wrote the Metagenes pre-Ritual. I was also WAA for one year.
MK: What keeps you coming back to Alpha Rho Chi?
HB: I just never lost contact. Kim Clark and I would do things together to help the fraternity grow and sustain. One time I was at Fallingwater with John Kudravy, a fellow Charter brother. A Metagenes brother with an APX shirt on saw us in letters and recognized us as Charters. He and his family came up to us and introduced themselves, and all the sudden the conversation changed–there is a bond there among brothers. Also, this is my professional organization and I am proud of it. Every year I go back with Michelle and Chris for the portfolio and resume workshop, and we connect with students about the profession and give professional advice.
MK: What has your alumni involvement consisted of?
HB: Staying in touch with the chapter, some summer parties, staying in contact with brothers… As you get older and have your own family, priorities change, and there are fewer opportunities to engage, but I try to make two or three physical connections with brothers a year. Football season also brings people together, and if anyone ever calls me for advice, I’m always there.
MK: What do you love about APX?
HB: We didn’t always pay attention to the rules at face value. We took “Allied Arts” and bent the rules to bring in other majors. In my first years, there were no female brothers. We had a woman–Beverly–that wanted to join the Metagenes Chapter, but we weren’t supposed to initiate a woman. Instead, we took a vote to initiate her, and it was unanimous to initiate her. We sent in the registration for initiation list, and we decided that by the time it would take Nationals to find out we were initiating her, we would have done it already–so we did! I am most proud of this expansion of our fraternity. We were the first APX chapter to “publicly” initiate a woman, but we found out later that Iktinos had done it in secret. In our book, secret doesn’t count. Our decision paved the way for what the fraternity is today, a reflection of men and women equal in the profession.
MK: What do you see as the biggest differences today in the fraternity?
HB: The difference is the fraternity house, and of course the ratio of men and women being equal or even stronger on the women’s side. We had a bar in the basement of both fraternity houses we had, and meeting rooms upstairs. I lived in the house for three years. It brings a stronger bond. We used to have practice jury presentations there, artwork on the walls, and it was a place to come together and have a beer with a brother at any time.
MK: Do you have any advice for brothers out there?
HB: Friendships gained through these associations says it all. What we did together, we’ve all done the same thing across the United States and have this common bond and memory. You never forget who you did it with. You go out into the world and you won’t know anyone, and then you find a brother and all of a sudden you have numerous resources.
Never pass up an opportunity because it’s not in your comfort zone. Every experience is valuable. You don’t always know it at the time, but later all of a sudden it pops up just when you need it.
Take an opportunity because it’s a challenge and you wouldn’t have done it otherwise. Through the initiative I took, I gained confidence and learned how to become a leader. What’s most important though is to ask for help and build a team.
MK: Do you have any fun facts or anecdotes you care to share?
HB: I have a full Yankee museum in my house–it’s my quiet, temperature-controlled world away from the world… Take the AREs to pass them after you have learned the material from experience, not like you studied for the SAT… My license plate is “APXTECT”