Sunday, November 27, 2016

More Sad News

Jerry McDonnell (1945-2016)
I woke up Sunday morning, read the paper, and discovered the Eugene architecture community lost one of its elder statesmen last week. I’d been aware Jerry McDonnell was suffering from poor health but did not know how much his condition had deteriorated. He leaves behind a significant legacy, one for which everyone in our community is thankful. 

I always admired Jerry for his intelligence, acerbic wit, and dedication to his craft. He was one of the first local practitioners I came to know upon my return to Eugene in 1988. I immediately recognized his influence within the architectural community and his leadership as demonstrated by his service on behalf of both the AIA and CSI. 

The word of Jerry’s death at age 71 comes on the heels of the other sad news I recently reported. Perhaps it was fitting in my previous blog post that I chose to commemorate Benny Bartel’s life in part by including an image of the Silva Concert Hall at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts. It was the Hult Center project that brought Jerry to Eugene 37 years ago, after which he established his practice in partnership with the late Gene Brockmeyer, later to become GMA Architects (now with Danny Klute and Joseph Moore at the helm). 

Here’s Jerry’s obituary as written in today’s Register-Guard: 

Gerald "Jerry" McDonnell (1945 – 2016)
Gerald (Jerry) McDonnell, died at home on November 21 after a prolonged battle with COPD. His wife, Margot, was by his side. 

Jerry was born in Flushing, New York on April 25, 1945. He was the only child of Gerald and Sheila, nee O'Donnell, who each emigrated to the U.S. from Ireland in the late 1920's. They later met and married in New York City. The family moved to Chicago in 1961. After completing high school, he enrolled in the newly-opened University of Illinois Chicago campus and graduated with a degree in Architecture in 1969. During five years of college he took part-time employment with architectural firms and completed his sixth year in Paris. 

Jerry was licensed in Illinois in 1971 and at the age of 26 became the youngest architect in Illinois that year. He moved to Denver with his first wife, who died in a car accident in 1974. He married Margot Mock in 1977. 

He worked for the New York firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Architects in Denver. He and Margot moved to Eugene with their newborn son in 1979, when Jerry accepted the construction administration position for the Eugene Performing Arts Center, which later became the Hult Center for the Performing Arts. 

Jerry and Margot decided to remain in Eugene where they raised their sons, Kevin born in 1979 and Colin born in 1981. Jerry opened his own architectural practice following completion of the Hult Center in 1982. During the span of his career, his firm designed many projects throughout Eugene. Jerry was most proud of the designs of the Cuthbert Amphitheatre and the Eugene Symphony orchestra shell for the Hult Center. He retired from active practice in 2013.  

From 1981-83 he was the first president for the newly formed board of the Eugene Ballet Company. He was an officer on the ladder of board roles of the local professional societies for the chapters of American Institute of Architects and the Construction Specifications Institute. He thoroughly enjoyed volunteering as a UO track official from 1983 to 2009, the last several years as head official for the long jump. 

Jerry is remembered as a loving father and grandfather, good friend, dedicated business partner and supporter of the arts. He is known for his sharp intellect, sharper wit and strong work ethic. He enjoyed camping with his young family, attending his sons' many sporting events, tackling numerous home improvement projects, playing racquetball, fishing on the McKenzie, visiting wineries in the Northwest and California and getting together with family and friends near and far. He made enduring friendships in Eugene and grew to love the community he found here. He continued to play poker with a group formed in 1982 and golfed every Friday with the same friends since 1986. 

In 1997, he traveled to Ireland with his wife and sons and visited his parents' homesteads in County Roscommon and County Donegal. Like many children of immigrants, and many in his generation, he made a remarkable journey, begun by his parents that spanned vast cultural and geographic territory. He was very proud of both his family and his heritage. 

He is survived by Margot, Kevin (Sarah Tesser), Colin (Samali Lubega) and two granddaughters, Caroline Ava and Natalie Cate. A memorial is planned for Monday, December 5th, in Studio One at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, at 4:00 p.m. 

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