When we are children, it is the most harmless question in the world: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We all want to be firefighters, doctors, the President or a variety of other careers we know. For many, though, there comes a point where the question becomes complicated—daunting, even. College students can feel especially overwhelmed by the myriad career paths they can take, all stretching deep into the horizon.
Harold Adams ’61, however, never questioned who he was going to be. As a young boy, Adams occupied himself by drawing and crafting wooden furniture in his own makeshift shop. When a copy of Reader’s Digest arrived on his doorstep with an article describing architecture as a career, it set his imagination ablaze. Just like that, Adams knew what he wanted to do for a living.
While he earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture at Texas A&M University, Adams spent summers interning at an architecture firm in New York City. He accepted a full-time position in the city upon graduation but was pulled away to Washington, D.C., when a Texas A&M professor promised him the chance to work on an exciting project: the redevelopment of Lafayette Square under the advisement of President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy.
Adams led the Lafayette Square renovation and worked with President Kennedy and his family on numerous other projects. When Kennedy was assassinated, Adams somberly stepped up to help design the gravesite honoring his leadership and legacy. In the following years, he was appointed president of the architecture firm RTKL Associates, which he soon expanded to a global power.
Today, Adams has returned to Texas A&M as a professor of practice in the College of Architecture, where he provides mentorship to current students and support to faculty through various endowed professorships. While some of the students learning under Adams may not relate to his laser-like focus to become an architect from childhood, they can all take one lesson from his life to heart: You cannot live your life according to a blueprint. New opportunities will always arise, and the future will take you in many different directions. You just have to see the bigger picture in your heart and embrace the opportunities and challenges as they come.
Thanks and Gig ’em,
Tyson Voelkel ’96
President, Texas A&M Foundation