Life As A Mentor: William M. Brown, III, FAIA, NOMA

April 29, 2021

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Life As A Mentor: William M. Brown, III, FAIA, NOMA

“Train a child in the way he/she should go and when he/she is old he/she will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6


For many years William M. Brown III, FAIA has mentored children at various elementary schools in Newark, Orange, and East Orange, NJ. One special school has been the Dr. John Howard Elementary School of East Orange, NJ, where the former and now retired Guidance Counselor, Janet Parhams a childhood friend invited him to her school to speak to the 6th-grade students for several years. The eager faces, the excitement to share and engage the students in a fun-filled atmosphere where the students were introduced to Architecture to the students, many for the first time. Some of the students as they shared with him have never seen an Architect let alone an African-American one. This issue of exposure is of extreme importance to Bill as he reaches out to all children of diversity spreading the enjoyment of Architecture, talking about his life growing up in Newark, NJ, attending St. Benedicts Preparatory School and Howard University and the type of education he received, how I became interested in architecture, What I would have done if not for architecture (Bill at one point in his life wanted to become a Pastor, but at the age of seventeen he changed his mind), what a typical day in my office may look like, what architects do and various building types that architects design. Bill describes in simple terms what architects do and their relationship between a contractor and Owner. Just to mention a few items by which to engage the students. In addition, I describe other areas by which they can use their architectural education to explore other tangible areas to the profession, such as working in an architectural office, teaching, construction, business, rendering, photography, model making, working for the government, or financial institutions.




Oftentimes Bill will gather the students around him at a desk to show the students a simple drawing of a house plan describing the rooms, the layout, and some elevations indicating the materials, shapes, and components of a house so that they can relate to where they live in their own homes and develop an awareness and appreciation of their environment.



It is remarkable how the students can become so fascinated in the discussion and can come back to you with some intriguing and funny questions. This makes the interaction fun for both Bill and the students but the dialogue inspires them to think beyond their current circumstances and gives them hope and a belief that they can dream and achieve whatever they set their minds to. The students at Dr. John Howard Jr. School shared precious “Thank You” notes which Bill still keeps and serves as an inspiration to mentor and serve! You never know who you may reach or who will be the next Architect but that is not your job! We can’t wait and say I will mentor students when I have my act together, because it will never happen. Go as you are, use what you know, and make a difference in the lives of others for your blessing is in the going! We as Architects have to just go and plant the seed, be not concerned about the results but to share our experiences in a genuine way, and having the faith that one-day future Architects will emerge! 



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