March 12, 2021Reading Time: 6 minutes
AIA NJ Fellow Suzanne DiGeronimo, FAIA, FSAME is an architect of true grit. She recently celebrated her 50 year anniversary as owner of her firm. She is a licensed architect, planner, and interior designer. Her accolades include multiple recognitions: the American Institute of Architects (AIA) – elevated to Fellow; AIA National Chair of the Practice Committee, AIA National appointed juror to select new Fellows, AIA National appointed juror to the National Urban and Regional Design Awards, among other local AIA leadership positions held. Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) – elected to National Board of Direction, elected as VP of SAME, elevated to Fellow, awarded SAME’s highest honor the Gold Medal, awarded SAME Fellows highest honor, the Golden Eagle Award, among other local, regional, and national SAME leadership positions. Ms. DiGeronimo is a frequent speaker and lecturer. She has held several teaching positions. She had been a Member of the Board of Directors of NJ Youth Symphony as well as several other non-profits. The Port Authority of NY&NJ appointed Ms. DiGeronimo Juror in 2018 for the International Mid-town Bus Terminal Competition. She holds an Associate Degree in Applied Science Interior Design from FIT 1967, she attended Pratt Institute School of Architecture and Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning. She received a Bachelor of Architecture Degree in 1973 from the Cooper Union School of Architecture. She has been married to Louis DiGeronimo for 50 years. They have two sons, two daughters-in-law, two granddaughters, and two grandsons.
Here, we invite you to read Ms. DiGeronimo’s acceptance speech upon receiving the SAMEd on the subject of the Golden Eagle Award. Suzanne touches upon obstacles she had to overcome throughout her professional career, which only reinforces how deserving she is of this honorable award.
25 March 2015
Thank you. Wow! The Golden Eagle Award. Thank you all for being here. You know my dad was a tin can sailor in World War II bobbing along 21 continuous months in the Pacific. He saw the American flag raised high up Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima. Thank you to all of you veterans out there. You’ve accomplished an incredibly fine job for our country, for keeping us all free. And my mom? She was a real Rosie the Riveter working in the factory on the home front. Our American production of war-fighting goods in World War II was the envy of the world – and won the war for the Allies. I thank all of you civilians out there working in Public Service. You are all truly awesome!
And me? Well, I came along and upset the apple cart.
In my generation, girls were the fragile sex. Girls’ sports were half-games half-court sorts of affairs. It was boys only for woodshop and drafting. Girls only for cooking and sewing. And an architectural profession? Don’t even think about it, said my college professor; it’s too tough for a girl.
I didn’t know I shouldn’t or that I couldn’t.
So I attended architectural school at night. I met my husband, my partner, my soul mate: Louis DiGeronimo. He’s here today. Hi Lou! We married and spread out a calendar to plan our family. We joke that our son Marcello ought to have received credit for two semesters of architectural education – 9 months. Marcello’s here today. He’s a licensed architect working for Turner, just back from Qatar. And no, his professors at Syracuse didn’t give him the credit. But then again, neither did mine. The Dean threw me out of architectural school. Married women with children shouldn’t be architects.
I didn’t know I shouldn’t or that I couldn’t.
Out in the work-world, my supervisor forbid me from entering the construction site; prostitutes serviced the crews there. I joined a professional society and the holiday meeting entertainment was a stripper. To attend a business meeting at a private University Club in Manhattan, I had to go through the kitchen and up the service elevator. No women allowed. There were no women in military combat, no women in military leadership. Ah, but all that was about to change, as it does in this great country of ours not with the clash of the sword – but with the stroke of a pen. President Gerald Ford signed a bill that included a mandate that all the military academies were to admit women. The first graduating classes of hearty female midshipmen and cadets happened in 1980. No surprise then that in 1981 I receive my first Prime Contract with the Military; US Coast Guard, Third Coast Guard District, Governor’s Island. The Coast Guard District Engineer suggested I join SAME and so I did. I met New Jersey Post President Brigadier General Patrick J. McCarthy, New Jersey National Guard – a leprechaun of an American Irishman / a workaholic of an advocate of The Society. I met his wife Marie. Now Marie raised five kids all through Pat’s long military career and his extended absences. Need I say more about her spirit? And so I progressed and became New Jersey Post President. The Core assigned a new New York District Engineer. That military position automatically received the SAME position, head of the North Atlantic Region. I invited the General to speak at my small NJ Post member meeting / held at the tiny enlisted club / at the obscure Military Ocean Terminal Bayonne, MOTBY – a place where only military luggage ever went. He came! Brigadier General Gerald C. ‘Jed’ Brown. Jean Jennings Brown, Jed’s wife is here today. She flew in from Abu Dhabi just to be here tonight. Thank you for coming Jean. Your presence here means so very much to me. Jed adopted me; he encouraged me to do all I could for the Post, the Region, for Nation. No restrictions, no barriers.
I didn’t know I shouldn’t or that I couldn’t.
So. What was it that made SAME as a professional organization so very attractive for me? It was the active participation of both military and civilians certainly – but also the welcome mat that SAME extends to family. For my own personal intellectual stimulation, the Society has always had the most mind-boggling technical sessions – sessions like no other engineering society has – hands down, no competition! Tour Cheyenne Mountain, tag along on a re-fueling bomber, learn techniques to secure and lockdown core critical facilities. AND programs that invite others’ interest. New York Harbor inspection tours by Army vessel. Lectures on history at West Point. Summer Picnics at Picatinny. With SAME, its work and recreation, its men and women, leaders and doers, husbands and wives, all ranks, all working together – appreciating each other’s differences and celebrating each of our individual contributions / by this combination, our Society is the
envy of the world. And so my volunteer career with The Society has lasted 34 years! I’ve worked elbow to elbow with Rear Admiral Navy, Vice Admiral Coast Guard, Brigadier General Army, Major General Air Force, Lieutenant General Army, and amongst all these giants, these heroes … Me; A little Polish-Lithuanian girl born to the farms and coal mines of northeastern Pennsylvania.
So for Pat and Jed, for our Society’s rich legacy of leadership …
For the Fellows newly invested today…
For future SAME Fellows… maybe even my own grandkids,
I am proud to accept this, the Society of American Military Engineers, Academy of Fellows, Golden Eagle Award.
All my life I’ve been told I shouldn’t and that I couldn’t. Well, I did. And you know what?
I’m not done yet!
And that my friends is what being a SAME Fellow is all about.
Suzanne has been a recent guest speaker for the AIA NJ Equity in Architecture Committee, a panelist on the AIA NJ Post Pandemic Transportation Design Webinar, and will be speaking at NK Architects in honor of Women’s History Month.
Architects are creative professionals, educated, trained, and experienced in the art and science of building design, and licensed to practice architecture. Their designs respond to client needs, wants and vision, protect public safety, provide economic value, are innovative, inspire and contribute positively to the community and the environment. Founded in 1857, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through a dynamic network of more than 250 chapters and more than 95,000 member architects and design professionals, the AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards. The AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation, and world. The organization’s local chapter, AIA New Jersey, has served as the voice of the architectural profession in the Garden State since 1900. Based in Trenton, AIA New Jersey has over 2,000 members across six sections. For more information, please visit http://www.aia-nj.org
By Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA, AIA NJ Advocacy Consultant | Posted in Architects League of Northern New Jersey, Women in Architecture | Tagged: #AIA, #AIAFellowship, #Choosetochallenge, #IWD2021, #SAME, #SuzanneDiGeronimoFAIA, #WIA, #womeninarchitecture, #WomensHistoryMonth, Fellowship | Comments (0)
Architects are creative professionals, educated, trained, and experienced in the art and science of building design, and licensed to practice architecture. Their designs respond to client needs, wants and vision, protect public safety, provide economic value, are innovative, inspire and contribute positively to the community and the environment.