Russell V. Keune

 

Russell V. Keune, FAIA

 

Goucher College

Towson, Maryland

Saturday, August 7, 2010

 

(Background Note:  Each year one faculty member in the Goucher College Master of Arts in Historic Preservation program is invited to make an extended, illustrated presentation on their career to the assembled students and faculty.)

 

“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Forrest Gump

 

THE BEGINNINGS

 

The only child of Catherine and Richard Keune, I was born in 1938 in Chicago, Illinois.  My mother was a homemaker; my father a career statistician with Sears Roebuck and Company. My mother’s heritage was Dutch; my father’s German.

 

I attended Chicago public schools – Locke Elementary and Steinmetz High School.

 

My interest in architecture has its origins in my liking to draw. I was published at the age of five in Children’s Activities magazine. The featured ship was an interesting omen for my future. While in grammar school my mother enrolled me in the Chicago Art Institute’s Summer School where I drew famous Chicago landmarks.

 

Our family regularly visited Chicago’s museums.  Three left lasting impressions. First was the Art Institute; especially their Thorne Miniature Rooms – a collection of finely crafted period interiors of famous houses. Second was the Chicago Historical Society’s exhibit of large dioramas of famous historic Chicago scenes. Third was the Museum of Science and Industry with its rich collection of scientific and engineering exhibits.

 

In the pre-television era, our family attended the winter series of Burton Holmes Travelogues at Chicago’s Symphony Hall. Mr. Holmes would appear on stage in his tuxedo and proceed to narrate a color film featuring either a domestic or foreign destination.  These programs marked the beginnings of my interest in travel.

 

Our home was near the suburb of Oak Park. It was a destination for shopping, dining and going to the movies. Driving down Forest Avenue we would pass a number of private homes done in an “unusual style” as characterized by my parents and family friends.  It was my introduction to the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Little did I know at the time that some three decades later I would have a role in the National Trust’s acquisition of Wright’s Home and Studio and in the creation of Oak Park’s Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District.

 

With acquisition of a new 1951 Nash Ambassador our family took a number of summer vacation trips. Some of our destinations would later play a significant role in my professional life such as Miami Beach’s art deco hotel district and Colonial Williamsburg.

 

By my junior year in high school, I knew that I wanted to become an architect. I enjoyed mechanical drawing courses and was encouraged by a memorable teacher, Mr. Westergreen.

 

My first summer job in 1954 was with the Inland Press delivering proofs of printing work.  My daily schedule in and around Chicago’s loop introduced me to the exteriors and interiors of many Chicago architectural landmarks.  Among my regular stops was H.H. Richardson’s Glessner House.  In 1975 I would oversee the opening of the National Trust’s first Midwest Regional Office in the house.  My routes took me by contemporary high-rise buildings under construction – Skidmore, Owings and Merrill’s Inland Steel Building and Mies van der Rohe’s Lake Shore Drive Apartments. Both were inspirational and left lasting impressions.  55 years later my son works for SOM and lives in a Mies designed apartment building I watched under construction.

 

THE COMMITMENT

 

Following high school, I enrolled in the Department of Architecture and Fine Arts at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana; the second oldest school of architecture in the US. In state resident semester tuition was $200.  I graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Architecture presented with High Honors.  I was the first member from my mother and father’s families to graduate from college.

 

My objective was to be an architect designing contemporary buildings. Two influences began to alter this objective. The department required students to have three years of architectural history. The first was being fortunate to be in a class taught by Dr. Ernest Allen Connally.  He was the most inspirational professor I would encounter in my academic career and the only one to receive a standing class ovation at the end of the semester. Suddenly architectural history held a new interest. Ten years later he would play a significant role in my professional career.  He was a lifelong friend and colleague.

 

The second was a chance encounter in an evening art studio with a fellow classmate who had worked the previous summer for something called the Historic American Buildings Survey.  I found his enthusiastic description to have a certain appeal.  Several months later, Dr. Connally announced that applications were being accepted for 1958 HABS teams.  I applied and was accepted. The initial lure was not so much the historic architecture as it was the opportunity to work in an eastern location, get paid for it and do some traveling.

 

Throughout one’s life potential career alternative paths do emerge – some planned, most unplanned.  At points in this presentation I will note some, not all, “paths not taken”.  In preparing this presentation it was personally interesting in hindsight to speculate on what would have happened if some of these paths had been taken.

 

Growing up in Chicago, political precinct captains were neighborhood features.  The Republican precient captain offered me a summer intern position with the Cook County engineering department.  It surely was motivated to keep my parents casting their Republican votes.  It was the first path not taken.

 

My 1958 summer assignment was to the Harpers Ferry National Historic Monument in West Virginia. Little did I know that when I stepped off the Baltimore and Ohio’s Columbian that June morning that it would mark the beginning of a professional career.   I was one of six students – or “inchworms” as we were known – working under the direction of Professor F. Blair Reeves of the University of Florida on 19th-century buildings that were part of the then National Park Service’s Mission 66 program.  Four students resided at the slightly seedy Hill Top Hotel where we introduced to a host of characters that included down-and-out waiters imported from Baltimore (complete with moonshine in ball jars) and jockeys from the nearby Charlestown Race Track.  The Reeves family could not have been more devoted to the team and organized weekend trips to Washington and Charlottesville.

 

We were also introduced to the larger world of the then NPS professional staff – architects, historians, archeologists and landscape architects all working at this then relatively new national monument.

 

In August the Chief Historical Architect of the National Park Service, Charles E. Peterson, made a site visit. He was the founder of the HABS program. He carefully inspected my measured drawings and much to my relief pronounced them excellent.  He would come to play a very significant role in my future career.

 

I was invited back to HABS for the next two summers. In 1959 on the Connecticut River Valley Survey based in Deerfield, Massachusetts and in 1960 on the Mid-Coast Maine Survey based in Rockland, Maine. Again they were educational, rewarding and fun-filled summer experiences.

 

Prior to my 1961 graduation Charles Peterson offered me a position as a Restoration Architect with the National Park Service. The lure was to serve as the liaison with a student team from the Danish Royal Academy of Architecture coming to the Virgin Islands to conduct a survey of Danish colonial architecture. Viewed from the perspective of an Illinois winter, it was too good to pass up!

 

With a last minute change in Danish plans, I returned to Harpers Ferry to work with the park architect. I directed a summer HABS team working on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.  The 1962 Berlin crisis generated my military draft notice and with a 4f determination, it was time to explore another path. I resigned to travel to the western U.S. where several classmates had gone to work with glowing descriptions of what they were doing.  It would be an exploratory path not taken.

 

On my last day of work, Charles Peterson offered me a temporary assignment in San Juan Puerto Rico to monitor the U.S. Army as it withdrew from the historic fortifications of San Juan and as they were transferred to the National Park Service. He gave me all of 30 minutes to consider the offer. I took it in five. It was to be my first solo professional experience.

 

I didn’t have any concerns with the assignment being extended as funding for initial architectural work came available. Additional assignments included work in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Nevis in the British West Indies to record machinery in a 19th-century sugar cane windmill.

 

In 1962 I was assigned to the newly established Minute Man National Historical Park outside of Boston as the first Park Architect. I documented historic properties as they were acquired by the Park Service and directed an HABS team recording the historic properties in and around the park.

 

By 1963 I decided to pursue a Masters Degree in Architecture. There was no degree granting historic preservation program at the time. With the support of a teaching and research assistantship, I returned to Illinois. With faculty support, I pursued a Master of Architecture program that included courses, seminars and self-study related to American history and preservation.

 

Two transforming career events would follow – the first was six weeks in Williamsburg; the second was six months in Europe.

 

As a new National Trust member I received an announcement for the Williamsburg Seminar for Historical Agency Administrators – a six-week seminar intended to attract young professionals into the field of historical agency administration. I didn’t have any commitments for the summer of 1964. It looked interesting. I applied and was the first architect accepted to the seminar. Directed by William J. Murtagh, it featured morning lectures by public and private leaders from throughout the U.S. Afternoon site visits were made to public and private historical sites from Richmond to Norfolk.  The experience was a profound insight into a world far beyond what I had experienced within the National Park Service.  I left with a feeling that being a restoration architect at a drafting table was perhaps too limiting. Bill Murtagh would later play a major role in my career.

 

The University of Illinois continued the Beaux Arts tradition of post-graduate European experience through the Plymn Fellowship in Architecture – a competition based on one’s undergraduate record together with accomplishments in a minimum of three-years post-graduation experience.  I was hesitant to enter based on my then architectural experience in historic preservation. Encouraged by a faculty member, I entered and won one of two fellowships. The $3,000 prize supported my being in Europe in 1965 for six-months to pursue self-study of any architectural subject of my choice.  The obligations were to: not accept any employment during the six months; submit a monthly report summarizing what I was seeing and experiencing; and a final report when I returned.  I elected to focus on urban historic preservation programs. I bought a new Volkswagen and from February to August visited 12 countries. It was a professionally transforming experience.

 

Upon my return there was a path not taken. Charles Peterson recommended me for the Directorship of the new Lahaina Restoration Foundation in Kauai, Hawaii. The offer was very tempting but the location was too far away.

 

RETURN TO THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

 

I opted for a position with the Park Service in Washington, DC.  Having enjoyed the fieldwork, why not try the “big-time” in Washington?  I quickly came to see that it was not what I expected.

 

Within two years there were two more paths not taken.  Hugh Miller invited me to join the Park Service team going to Jordan to advise on the establishment of a national park system. Being that far removed from the woman I would later marry was a deciding factor to stay in the U.S.  The second was the invitation to become the first Director of the newly created state Virginia Landmarks Commission. I came very close to accepting the second opportunity.

 

Fate intervened. In July 1966 I was invited for the first time to the conference room of the Director of the Park Service to attend a briefing on new historic preservation legislation being developed by the Congress.  It was the first I had heard of it. On the way out of the Interior Building I am walking with Ronald F. Lee, a Park Service Regional Director who I had met in the past on several occasions.  He asks, “How are things going?”  I respond that I am about to leave the Park Service in Washington for Richmond.  He looks surprised. We say farewell. I return to my office to find a phone message from him inviting me for drinks at the Cosmos Club.  Never been there. Sure, I’ll be glad to come.  Arrive at 6 pm and seated on a big leather couch with drinks being served. Surprise! George Hartzog, Director of Park Service who I had only met for the first time hours before, joins us.  In his typical direct style asks me why the hell am I leaving the NPS.  He wants me to stay, participate and contribute to what is coming…the new legislation – something to be known as the National Historic Preservation Act. Surprise – call your college professor, Ernest Connally; he is going to become the head of the new Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation.  I called, “yes by all means stay and participate”.  I stay.

 

As a 20 year Cosmos Club member, the second floor lounge holds a special place in my career history.

 

The next two years of my life are the most memorable from many perspectives.

 

At age 28 I am assigned as the youngest, and only architect member, of the seven-person NPS Task Force charged with developing and recommending the documents, process and procedures to implement Title II of the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act.  In four months between November 1966 and March 1967, the Task Force develops and proposes the National Register criteria; first grants in aid-manual; National Register nomination form; and the State Liaison Office system. The program’s debut takes place in March 1967 in Williamsburg before a cross-section of the national public and private preservation leadership.  Among the invited attendees is my fellow faculty member Bernd Foerster. This is followed by six regional conferences around the US to share it with the newly designated State Liaison Officers and related professional bodies.  The Secretary of the Interior issued the formal regulations in early 1968. I take a special pride in that the National Register criteria we wrote some 44 years ago remain unchanged.

 

I served as the first Acting Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places until the arrival of William Murtagh from the National Trust.  I am quickly drawn into the activities of the newly established Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. It is an exciting professional adventure working with Robert Garvey as the Council’s first Executive Director.  I contribute to the process and procedures for beginning to deal with Section 106 cases.  I remember the first two – a simple highway bridge in Las Trampas, New Mexico and the Army surplusing the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts.

 

Within two years the magic ride of this Great Society program came to an abrupt halt with the increasing impact of the Viet Nam War on the federal budget.  LBJ could not sustain both guns and butter.  The federal funding for the National Register program took a nosedive. I quickly grew bored.

 

My personal life from 1967 to 1969 was equally exciting.  I passed my state exam to become a licensed architect, became engaged, got married and had a son. To the anguish of my new in-laws who were US government career employees, I left my secure government job for a position in the private non-profit sector.

 

THE NATIONAL TRUST ERA

 

Terry Morton, Editor of the National Trust’s Historic Preservation Bulletin, was a friend who was aware of my concerns.  She kindly recommended me to the Trust President for filling a new Trust position.

 

In 1969 I joined the National Trust for Historic Preservation as the first Director of Field Services. My mission was to expand the Trust’s ability to provide professional advisory services to its member organizations.  Over the next few years I hired a new professionally trained staff of museum specialists, planners, lawyers, and researchers/writers – including women and minorities in senior positions.

 

We utilized telephones, selectric typewriters and early versions of Xerox machines. There were no fax machines, Internet, web sites, e-mail or blackberries.

 

I traveled throughout the US visiting all but four of the 55 states and worked with a comprehensive cross-section of public and private preservation organizations at the national, state, county and local levels. I was fortunate during this period to be present and involved with many new preservation organizations – the National Council of State Historic Preservation Officers, Preservation Action, the Association for Preservation Technology, the National Alliance of Historic District Commissions, National Institute for Preservation Education and the League of Historic American Theatres.

 

We initiated a new series of targeted funding programs – Consultant Services Grant Program, Preservation Education Fund and the Preservation Revolving Fund.

 

It was exciting and rewarding to initiate a series of annual specialized conferences to meet the needs of the preservation community:  preservation law; preservation architects and fine arts conservators; building codes and preservation; landmark and historic district commissions; and old and new architecture.  The proceedings were published to make a wider contribution to the field.

 

In 1971 I created the first Trust Regional Field Office in San Francisco and over the next six years oversaw the establishment and staffing of five others to cover the entire US.  They came to have a profound effect on a broad array of Trust programs.

 

Beginning in the late 1970s my office created four important demonstration programs: Historic District Commissions, Main Street, Rural Preservation and Neighborhood Conservation.

 

The diversity of the preservation issues encountered is too numerous to mention in this presentation. I was especially fortunate to have worked with a broad cross section of the private sector’s preservation leadership in the 1970s.  Among the most memorable experiences would have to be sitting in the Supreme Court chambers to hear the legal arguments regarding the denial by the New York City Landmarks Commission of the right of the Penn-Central Railroad to build a new skyscraper above this designated landmark.

 

All of these programs enjoyed the strong support of the President, James Biddle.  Descended from one of America’s historic families, he could not have been more generous and kind to this Mid-westerner from a very middle-class background.  He was the most supportive leader I ever worked for. He believed in innovation and professionalism. He did not meddle. I traveled with him across the U.S. and was introduced by him to a segment of U.S. society that I would have never otherwise known.  It was my first position that necessitated my owning a tuxedo!

 

In the mid-1970s I represented the National Trust in my first official international preservation experiences: the UNESCO Conference in Warsaw, Poland to create the Charter on Historic Towns. The second was a month long visit to the Soviet Union as a member of the USSR-USA Environmental Accords Exchange Program in Historic Preservation.

 

I was a speaker on preservation subjects in a wide diversity of forums. For the 25th anniversary of the Williamsburg Antique Forum my topic was to review what had happened in the preservation movement during the forums existence.  It was an intimidating invitation.  I was not an antique collector; it was a prestigious audience of Colonial Williamsburg’s most wealthy benefactors.  My presentation was well received (including a good laugh when I noted that I was in the third grade when the forum began).  I was taken to an elegant lunch at the Williamsburg Inn where over dessert I was offered the position of Restoration Architect at Colonial Williamsburg.  While a most tempting offer, it was a path not taken.

 

By the late 1970’s I began ascending the higher administrative ranks of the Trust.  First as the Vice President for Programs and then in 1980 as the Senior Vice President for Preservation Programs – with a staff of some 300 people and a majority of the Trust’s annual budget.

 

1979 marked the 30th anniversary of the Trust.  Carlisle Hummelsine, the Board Chair wished to make this a special event. He established a special Board committee to develop a means of both celebrating the Trust’s history and more importantly to look to its future. I was detailed to serve as the Committee’s secretariat and was temporarily relieved of other duties. With the theme “Preservation: An Ethic for the Eighties” the Trust’s 1978 annual meeting featured national and international speakers examining a broad array of preservation policies, practices and issues.  Their presentations were assembled into background notebooks that were provided to an invited audience of 116 leading preservationists who assembled in Williamsburg, Virginia for a March 1979 weeklong conference to consider, debate and formulate a set of recommendations for the future. I served as the conference moderator.

 

The Trust Board adopted the results and they were published.  However, the ending was not at all a happy or satisfying one for me.  Both the Chairman, who had initiated the effort, and the President, both left their positions in 1980.  The new Trust President had not participated in this process and in the end did not buy into most of the results – “The results represented a prior administration”. The new President wanted his own new Strategic Plan.  It was an important lesson to me about how a change in institutional leadership could have such a profound and far reaching effect.

 

Concurrent with these developments there was a path not taken.  The position of Keeper of the National Register became vacant.  Ten years after I had departed, it had become an active and effective national program.  I applied for the position. I went through the most unusual and bizarre interview process I had ever experienced. I was offered the position. Before accepting I sought the advice of a longtime colleague who had been at the highest level of the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation and was advised “This is something you do not want to do” within the then relatively new Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service.  I took the advice.

 

By 1983 I had concerns over new directions being pursued by the Trust. I decided that it was time for a change.

 

BACK TO BASICS

 

After a going away gift from the Trust of a Mediterranean cruise, I leisurely explored a number of personal projects.  The Historic Preservation Yearbook was an idea of a successful publisher who specialized in gathering and printing key Congressional documents in reference books.  As a preservationist he thought there was a market for a compendium focused on historic preservation.  I was retained as the Editor.  The first 1984 volume was well received but it did not sell enough copies to make it a successful business venture.  In the age of Google and the Internet, it now can be viewed as a rather quaint idea.

 

I consulted on the preservation of the art deco heritage of Fair Park in Dallas, Texas built to celebrate the 1936 Texas Centennial and on the initial management preparations to open Tudor Place in Washington, DC to the public.

 

Later I joined Geier, Brown Renfrow Architects in Washington, DC with a focus on major federal buildings and a major architectural inventory of North Charleston, South Carolina.

 

I joined the Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board in Arlington County, Virginia and shortly thereafter became the Chair.  My major accomplishment was to have a multi-owner, early 20th-century, residential neighborhood, Maywood, designated as a historic district.

 

 

 

 

THE INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE

 

I accepted an invitation in 1984 to serve as the volunteer Program Committee Chair for the 1987 ICOMOS General Assembly and Scientific Symposium that was to be held in the United States for the first time.  This volunteer role would lead to my joining the staff in 1986 as the Vice-President for Programs.

 

Soon after the United States Committee of ICOMOS was formed in 1965 I became a member and later was elected to the Board.  The scale and complexity of this international undertaking, together with the need to raise nearly a million dollars to support it and my experience in planning and conducting national meetings at the Trust, led to my joining the staff.

 

The success of the 1987 General Assembly led the organization into new arenas of collaboration with public and private organizations.  It enhanced our ability and confidence to raise project funds for an array of international programs. Among them were the summer intern program bringing both foreign students to the US and placing American students in foreign preservation organizations; international visitor programs and world regional symposiums sponsored by the United States Information Agency; and projects involving heritage sites in Ghana; Yemen, Singapore and Croatia. We initiated a broad array of programs built around a collaborative effort with the National Park Service associated with the World Heritage Convention.

 

I would be honored with recognition as US/ICOMOS Fellow for my contributions to international preservation.

 

THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS

 

I joined the American Institute of Architects in 1969 and was active in the then Historic Buildings Committee. At this time the committee membership still included architects who had worked in the original 1930s WPA HABS program. In 1989 I would serve as the Committee Chair.

 

In the 1980’s I was serving as the US/ICOMOS representative on the AIA’s International Committee.  AIA members were increasingly working abroad and the AIA established the position of Director of International Relations.  Seeking to expand my international experience I accepted this position in 1993.

 

That same year I was recognized as a Fellow in the AIA College of Fellows for my professional contributions to historic preservation.

 

I organized international conferences in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China (the first AIA conference ever held in the People’s Republic of China), Paris France and London, UK for our first foreign chapters.  I coordinated the first AIA policy on international practice; received all international visitors; and participated in the negotiations for reciprocal architectural registration with Canada and Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

 

My Park Service, US/ICOMOS and AIA careers facilitated preservation experiences in over 50 foreign countries.

 

RETIREMENT

 

With the arrival of the Millennium in 2000 it was time to live by one’s own schedule and pursue personal interests.

 

My wife has achieved national recognition as an award winning artist and teacher of the traditional folk painting styles in Norway and Sweden.

 

My son, not falling far from the tree, is an award winning architect with the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill whose international exploits are matching those of his father.

 

I have enjoyed consultancy projects; writing on international historic preservation such as a contributing author to “A Richer Heritage”; and teaching here at Goucher.

 

I have served in two volunteer roles. First was with the Paris based International Union of Architects’ Professional Practice Commission. The Commission’s mission was to develop the first set of international recommended practice standards for architects and have them accepted by the 105 national professional societies constituting the membership. As the Commission’s Co-Director, I coordinated Working Groups on specific topics and organized and annual conferences in Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Washington, Melbourne and Seoul.  The UIA Accord on International Recommended Standards for the Practice of Architecture has now been published in English and French and translated into a host of other languages.

 

Having developed an expertise on the subject of international trade in architectural services, I represented the UIA with the World Trade Organization, the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation and the World Bank in their involvements with international trade in architectural services. Being an architect in a world of economists and diplomats was an educationally enriching experience. It was rewarding to share with these new audiences of non-architects all that the UIA had achieved in establishing a comprehensive set of international standards.

 

Second was serving on the Board and as Chair of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Located in Decorah, Iowa it is the oldest and largest museum in the US dedicated to one ethnic group.  My role was all the more interesting in my not having any Norwegian heritage. It was my wife’s connection with the museum that got me admitted.  It was an interesting application of one’s planning and organizational skills learned as an architect and administrator.  My proudest achievement was to oversee the largest fund-raising effort in the museum’s 125-year history – $ 6.5 million in a three-year campaign.

 

One of the unexpected dimensions of my career has been the opportunity to meet so many interesting people – presidents, kings, queens, first ladies, actresses and prominent architects.

 

Early in my retirement we saw the movie “About Schmidt” starring Jack Nickelson. It traces his transition into retirement from an Omaha insurance company.  As he leaves his house one morning to get away from her, his wife asks him if he is going  “on dilly-dallies”. “Dilly-dallies” has become a Keune household code word for what else I now do with personal interests and hobbies.

 

The largest are two fully restored Packard automobiles – a 1951 Patrician sedan and a 1953 convertible.  It becomes addictive. Beyond the cars I first took an interest in the location and architecture of Packard automobile dealerships.  Albert Kahn and Bernard Maybeck were among the prominent architects retained by Packard to design their show rooms. I have published a paper on the dealerships in the Washington area. Over time I began to collect paper documents produced in the early 1950s to support all of the many business aspects of the Packard Motor Car Company.  An article on this subject is awaiting publication.

 

In doesn’t end. Visits to antique shops and toy fairs built a collection toy cars and trucks modeled after actual Packards.

 

Beginning with my Trust travels, I started buying an occasional building model. Now with some 800 domestic and international examples, the compulsion continues.  Recently I have joined fellow hobbyists in the Society of Souvenir Building Collectors – many architects needless to say.  In 2011 we host the national convention in Washington, DC.  It has now spread to early souvenir trays with architectural themes.

 

Toy trains.  I never got over my childhood fun with my early Lionel trains.  While they were stored away for many decades they have re-emerged. The interest has expanded into the acquisition of historic models dreamed of as child.  Surprisingly I have found many closeted toy train collectors among preservation colleagues.

 

Family history.  In 1965, during my Plymn Fellowship, I was the first family member to return to Germany since 1861. I met with descendents of the Keune family who remained in Germany. This led to an interest in both the family history in the U.S. and in the 19th century buildings associated with my great-grandfather, Charles Keune in the Wisconsin village of Hika.  Deed research, site visits and the collection of early photographs of Keune family related buildings will soon facilitate some scale architectural drawings of the family’s architectural legacy.

 

SOME OBSERVATIONS

 

The invitation to make this presentation includes a suggestion for the speaker to reflect on their career and offer some observations.

 

In the 55 year span of my professional career there is a changed world in the number and diversity of educational offerings and potential career paths in the preservation field.  There has been a revolution in the ability to access information on a global basis and to communicate in ways undreamed of in the 1960s. I will close with a few personal observations:

 

  1. Gain experience: While you are young and mobile get as much experience as you can. Unless you are in the “position of a lifetime”, be prepared to move about while you can.

 

  1. Don’t be bashful. Attend conferences and seminars. Travel to gain experience and insights.  In such situations, use the opportunity to see, hear and meet leaders and practitioners in the field.  At a reception, “work the room”.  Get a simple, legible business card and use them.

 

  1. Develop the ability to have a public presence. Be comfortable with public speaking and project confidence in public settings. Have the ability to listen, understand and assess what is going on around you and be able to effectively respond to it. Have patience and the ability to maintain self-control.

 

  1. Develop the ability to communicate clearly and concisely. Be prepared to be effective in a multitude of public roles – as the focus of a press conference; a live television or radio interview; panelist in a public debate; testimony before a city, state or Congressional committee; and/or an expert witness in a court proceeding.

 

  1. Perfect your writing abilities. Refine the ability to order your thoughts and positions in a concise and logical manner. Write a good letter.  For the “hot” ones always let them cool off for at least a day.  Exercise care and caution in e-mails.  You never know were they are going to go – and how fast – after you hit the send button.

 

  1. On becoming an administrator. Recognize that the further up the chain of command you go, the higher the probability that you will have less hands-on contact with the subject matter. If it is a large organization you will be dealing with a broad array of responsibilities but not necessarily the ones that attracted you there in the first place.

 

  1. Develop skill sets beyond traditional preservation education. The ability to effectively engage in ongoing program development. The ever present need to define goals and objectives.  Participate in fund raising in both the private and public sectors, e.g. write winning grant proposals.  Understand budget preparation and administration and the more painful process of cutting the same.  Be prepared to deal with personnel issues – preparing position descriptions, conducting interviews, making selections, conducting performance evaluations and terminating staff.

 

  1. Hold to your principles. There will be points in your professional life where your principles will be tested. They will come from boards, committees, officers, fellow staff and employees.  My experience in Washington, DC has shown that they can be especially volatile with ongoing changes of administrations and political appointees. How you handle them will usually have ramifications.

 

  1. Have confidence in yourself. In growing your professional career path and knowing your skills and experience, be prepared to take risks in making changes.

 

CONCLUSION

 

Little did I know when I opted for that first 1958 summer experience with HABS what my path my preservation career would follow over the next 52 years.  I have been fortunate to enjoy a unique and richly diversified experience in the public and private sector.

 

I didn’t know what I was going to get but I have greatly enjoyed my box of chocolates.

 

Thank you.


One Response to Russell V. Keune

  1. Virginia McAlester says:

    Russell was my hero. I was a budding preservationist and he was the all knowing head of Field Services for the National Trust back in 1973. One of his short visits to Dallas could keep us busy for the next year or two. Russell guided us on getting our Swiss Avenue Historic District organized and designated. When the City of Dallas said that a nearby neighborhood, Munger Place, could not be salvaged, Russell suggested a Revolving Fund. It worked. When Fair Park was in danger of being partially demolished, Russell worked with Betty Marcus, then chair of the Dallas Park Board, to save it. He was always a source of wise advice, helpful insights and encouragement. The City of Dallas, and my life, would not have been the same without his guidance and help.

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