Senior specifications writer Terry Mattison is celebrating 50 years at HOK – and counting.
Members of the St. Louis office gathered on August 30 to celebrate with Terry, whose 11-page resume includes a staggering 341 HOK projects. That number likely would double if it included the projects he has unofficially touched by providing advice on building materials. Terry, who still arrives at the office by 3:00 a.m. on most days, joins an elite group. HOK’s other two half-century employees are Co-Founder Gyo Obata and Chairman Emeritus Bill Valentine, who retired last spring.
“A lot of things have happened while Terry has been creating great work at HOK,” said Clark Davis, who pointed out that when Terry started at HOK in 1962 many people still did not have a color TV.
Going back 50 years to landmark projects like the Priory Chapel in St. Louis County, Terry’s imprint is on more HOK projects around the world than any other individual. “He is part of the reason that the buildings work so well—and his institutional memory about these projects is unmatched,” said Clark, who added that Terry seems to be reverse-aging. “You look younger than you did when I met you 25 years ago.”
“The projects on Terry’s resume span the alphabet from A-W,” said Marilyn Hecker, who has worked with Terry for 31 years. “Now you need to work on X, Y and Z.” Marilyn emphasized that Terry is a wealth of knowledge and a resource for HOK’s young architects. “You know more about building materials than anyone here.”
Former HOK colleague Dick Tell remembered that, in addition to coming in to work well before the sun rises, Terry was always available at night and on weekends. “He was never late with specs,” said Dick. “We all love you, Terry.”
St. Louis Project Manager Dennis Laflen, who has been with HOK for a mere 44 years, could not be in the office on the day of celebration but sent his thoughts to St. Louis Operations Director Andrew Gayer, who read them to the group. “Our first project together was out of HOK’s office in Belleville, Illinois,” recalled Dennis. “It was a military airlift command headquarters at Scott Air Force Base.”
Terry could write an entire specification for a project based on a single conversation, claimed Dennis. “I can’t think of a single HOK person who has protected the interest of our clients and HOK more than Terry,” he added. “I can always trust that his specifications are accurate and complete. I want to thank him for this loyalty and dedication – and for saving my backside many times!”
HOK Chairman and CEO Patrick MacLeamy provided a prerecorded message thanking and congratulating Terry for his “rare milestone.” He also passed along one request: “How about another 50 years?”
Next to speak was Andrew, who called Terry “the most unflappable person in an industry that is a rollercoaster ride of fights and arguments and fun and excitement.” Andrew told a story of walking out of the St. Louis office very early one weekday morning back in 2008, when hundreds of HOK people worldwide were working feverishly to meet an aggressive design schedule for the KAUST campus. “We knew it had been a long day when we were going home as Terry was coming in,” he said.
Clark then presented Terry with gift certificates and a new Knoll chair. Andrew led a champagne toast before calling on Terry to deliver the final remarks.
“How did applying for a summer job at the wrong firm turn into 50 years?” wondered Terry, who told the story of contacting the wrong Obata about a job he had seen advertised. “I called and HOK’s accountant told me they didn’t advertise jobs in the newspaper but that they did happen to be looking for help across the river in their Illinois office. I said I lived in Illinois and he said, ‘You are hired!’”
Terry explained how he has managed to stay for half a century: “Three reasons stand out. First is a very understanding wife. Second is a person named George Kassabaum and a firm named HOK that gave me this opportunity to address my field of specification writing. The last one is working with a wonderful group of talented people like you all. Thank you.”
HR Director Jan Harmon congratulates Terry