On the one hand, the terror of those early days hangs with me like it was yesterday; on the other, the time that has passed has given me a treasure that can’t really be put into words. It is about the journey, the time together, the process, and an enduring outcome.
I cannot put into words how blessed I am—and we are as a firm.
Twenty-five years ago today, three of us opened the doors on T.C. Sherry & Associates, a rather unimaginatively named but eager little firm providing landscape architectural services to Spokane and its environs. A much younger Tom Sherry, Tom Pratt, and Ken Van Voorhis didn’t know what we were getting into, but it was the path in front of us.
Within a day of opening, our former employer—the esteemed master landscape architect Robert Perron—assigned a vast amount of work to us, allowing us to continue to serve those clients already under contract to his firm. Bob only asked that he be paid for the work completed to date. We were stunned beyond words. We were handed a pile of work on the day that we opened.
A more gracious person I’ve not yet met. Bob passed last year, and his mark on landscape architecture in the region cannot be overstated. In addition to serving as landscape architect for both Expo 74 and Riverfront Park, he was the inspiration for a number of projects within the region, including the Centennial Trail. My former manager, Len Zickler, once introduced Bob as the “guru of Inland Northwest Landscape Architecture.” Nailed it there, Len. Many don’t know this, but the reason I am a landscape architect can be traced back to Bob. I watched the transformation of an urban rail yard into the magic of Expo 74 and later Riverfront Park, and thought, I want to do that. I was 14 years old when I made that decision.
Haven’t looked back since.
Working for and eventually managing the Spokane office of Bob’s firm was an unspeakably great thing to happen to me. Life-changing. Divine.
Since our early days, we have had the honor and pleasure of working with thousands of people, many of them the best in their professions of engineering, architecture, landscape architecture, planning, facilities management, K-12 and higher education, care for the aging, medical, therapeutic, early learning, environmental science and ecology, wildlife biology, general and specialty contracting, and more than I’m able to recall right now. While the majority of our careers have been spent in the Spokane area, we’ve had the (incredible) opportunity to work around the world and around the country. I find my face hurts from smiling so much at how great life is.
It has been a great adventure, and I thank all of you, even the ones I didn’t get along with. You all have made me and our firm better landscape architects and better people. You’ve also allowed us to provide something greater together, as our collective team, than we could provide alone.
No one really knows how much fun we have, doing what we do with innovative, creative people, when the reins are loosened just a little bit. (Gonzaga University, you were, and still are, number one. First project. First client.)
We’ve enjoyed working with all of our employees over the years, from young interns and office support staff to our young designers and our experienced landscape architects, each of whom brought a different and refreshing perspective—always welcome—to the practice. Some of our relationships did not end well, as happens. Some are enduring, despite every life change that happens. Ken, Tom, Dave, Nicole, Zane, Shae, Sandy, Hilary, Kirsti, Colleen, Laura, Anne, Gina, Katie, Darren, Jena, Kat, and Mattie: You’ve all done good work for the company. Many of you are scattered to the winds; some of us didn’t part under the best circumstances. But I thank you all.
You have meant more to me, and to the design firm that we have built, than I can say aloud. Those of you who know me well know that I can often put into words things that might put me into tears. Or you. (Most often it’s the latter. Ask my family). You have meant a great deal to me in my life, even the rough bits.
I mean that.
We’ve also worked with hundreds of consultants in allied disciplines. And sometimes not so allied. I continue to be amazed by folks out there whose natural talent in some area or other blows my mind: Authors. Artists. Writers. Publishers. Editors. Dozens of others. Many people we meet through our design processes: Caregivers. Nurses. Teachers. People who want, and strive for and encourage, the best solution for their patients, students, and the public. Thank you all for being a part of the life of our little company, and what you’ve brought to us and our community.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned how much fun I have in this career. Every project different. Every outcome unexpected, despite the best planning. Every team unique. Every day a new opportunity.
It really doesn’t get much better than this.
“Thanks” just doesn’t quite cover it. Words don’t either. But that’s what I have at hand.
Let’s go build a better future. There’s lots of years ahead of us and it’s time to get moving on some great stuff.