Award-Winning Alumna Supports Architecture with Retirement Plan Assets
Gwyn Gilliam (Architecture ’87)
Growing up in Statesville, N.C., Gwyn Gilliam (Arch ’87) always thought she’d be a math teacher. But vocational testing in her senior year of high school indicated that her strengths included art. A career in architecture looked like a good fit.
“Architecture is this really unique blend of art and science that not a lot of other things are,” she said. “You have the artistic side and yet you’ve got to make it all work.”
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in environmental design and architecture from North Carolina State University, Gilliam spent four years with The Architects’ Collaborative in Boston. When the time was right for graduate school, the University of Virginia was her first choice.
She credits the School of Architecture, in particular professors Robin Dripps and Carroll Westfall, with teaching her the cultural history and meaning of architecture. “U.Va. helped me learn how to be an architect,” she said.
After earning her master’s degree at U.Va., she worked for the Charlottesville architectural firm, VMDO, for three years. While there, Gilliam, who enjoys working with concrete and steel, designed the Clean Machine Carwash on Pantops Mountain. She then concentrated on custom residential design for 15 years at her own firm, Gwyn C. Gilliam, A.I.A. Since 2004, she has worked at AECOM Design in Roanoke, Va., where she currently serves as the design lead for higher education and general practice projects.
Now the award-winning architect has made plans to share her love of architecture with others. Gilliam has designated the U.Va. School of Architecture as a beneficiary of her individual retirement plan (IRA), a life insurance policy and her will. When these gifts are realized, the funds will establish the Gwyn C. Gilliam Fellowship Fund and the Gwyn C. Gilliam Library Fund for the purchase and preservation of architectural materials.
“I put myself through graduate school and wanted to help somebody who really loves architecture and really wants to become an architect and might not be able to otherwise,” she said.
In her work, Gilliam draws on the past and uses a vocabulary that she hopes is timeless. She hopes that her endowed gifts to the University will likewise endure.