Des M. Taylor, Hon. AIA (1943–2013)

Des Taylor, my friend and predecessor here as the executive vice president of the Texas Society of Architects, died August 27.  As much as anyone else, Des helped make this organization the exemplary AIA component model it is today through his vision, energy, and leadership.

When he started working for the Society in January 1973 — a month shy of his 30th birthday, we had roughly 2,200 members, Texas Architect was a black-and-white monthly that averaged 24 pages per issue (counting 6-8 pages of advertising), and we had an annual trade show with 30-40 booths. By the time he left at the end of 1988, not only was the state component completely different — the entire universe of architectural components was changed as other state and chapter offices across the country were copying the Texas model.

Des always demonstrated a commitment to do his very best, to leave things better than he found them … and he inspired others to do the same. He turned the staff of 3.5 that he inherited into a dynamic professional force of 12 at the height of Texas’ “boom years” in the early- to mid-80s. Like Des, the staff members were young, talented, and driven. Together, they helped get membership as high as 5,400, transformed Texas Architect into the nationally acclaimed, award-winning, four-color, perfect-bound publication it still is today, and put together an annual meeting that provided informative professional development that was more than paid for by an Expo featuring over 200 exhibit booths.

Larry Paul Fuller, like me, a friend and colleague of Des’ (and the first of the “young professional turks” Des hired), summarized 

the reasons for his success thus: “Des came to the office every day excited about the opportunity to produce more and better professional development programs, to push more vigorous advocacy efforts, to achieve greater public outreach through Texas Architect, promoting the Society's awards, and involving Honorary Members more. He helped encourage special programs like Disaster Action, Inc., and a focus on sustainability long before others even had such ideas on their radar, but that are now almost a given — everywhere.”

The broader scope of activities spawned during these years (and proof of the non-dues revenue potential they brought with them) were generously shared with chapters and state components across the nation. His peers in the Council of Architectural Component Executives (CACE) appreciated it so much that they made him CACE president for two years, 1978-79 — particularly noteworthy since it’s a one-year term.

After his 16 years with Texas architects, Des briefly practiced law in Austin and then returned to association management and lobbying, first with the Texas Chiropractic Association and ending with the National Association of Investment and Financial Advisors—Texas (NAIFA). 

The cancer that claimed Des was virulent. It was less than two months from the time it was diagnosed until he passed, depriving us all of the company of a gentle man, one who was also a warm, successful gentleman and scholar. I will miss him; we all will.

David Lancaster, Hon. AIA, is senior advocate for Texas Architects and served as the Society's EVP from 1989-2010.