Octavius Morgan Distinguished Service Award Recipients
Named after the first president of the California Architects Board (Board), the Octavius Morgan Distinguished Service Award recognizes individuals who have significantly contributed to the Board’s mission through volunteerism over a period of time. The Board selects award recipients annually. Nominations are accepted from Board members and staff.
The Board relies on volunteers to assist in developing the California Supplemental Examination (CSE) and to serve on many of its committees. Here are the latest honorees:
Connie Christensen’s love of architecture began when she was seven. She was accompanying her parents during a meeting with an architect that was
preparing plans for their home on a wooded hilltop site with a view of the sea and mountains. She said,
Perhaps it was the smell of the ammonia from the
blueprint machine that forever altered my mind. When she saw the blueprints, she was convinced architects were cool. Christensen spent much of her free
time in the wood scrap pile, alongside her dad, building with a hammer and nails. Continual encouragement from family and an exceptional mentor facilitated
achieving her goal of becoming an architect.
Christensen has been licensed 23 years with most of her career employed in a woman-owned firm (once a rarity and nontraditional) working with a number of wonderful architects and interns. The projects varied from single and multi-family housing to commercial, transit, and public works projects, although she has worked on education and healthcare projects, as well. Christensen is presently working for the State of California, where she is writing building code language.
She began volunteering with the Board in 2011, as a CSE Commissioner and a Master Commissioner. She has volunteered more than 500 hours for CSE related activities, including time spent as a Subject Matter Expert for the Supplemental Oral Examination developing psychometric-based items. Christensen has enjoyed the opportunity working with exceptionally knowledgeable, ethical, and committed architects. Volunteering enabled her to question, assess, and validate her own understanding of the practice and allowed her to learn and grow as a practicing architect.
Christensen loves that she can travel anywhere in the world and read so much from the built environment—history, climate, economics, politics, social response, and religion. As an architect, she has had the opportunity to take a consumer’s needs and apply her knowledge and creativity to solve problems with added value. Her favorite pastime is seeing a space being well-used by happy people.
Donald Hodges graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1968, with a Bachelor of Architecture degree. After graduating, he and his wife spent two years in the Peace Corps in Tunisia working in an architecture firm. Hodges retired in 2016 after practicing architecture in the United States for 48 years.
Hodges learned he had a skillset for becoming an architect by helping his uncle, who was a builder. In high school, Hodges was good at art and sciences. When
asked what he liked about being an architect, he stated,
Architecture is a big profession with aspects in history, art, design, engineering, project
management. There is also a need for interpersonal and management skills. The architect is the "quarterback" of the team leading the consultants to
a common goal and setting the pace and standards for the project. Good architects have to have some abilities in both arts and the sciences. Vitruvius summed
it up well two thousand years ago with his description of firmness, commodity, and delight.
In 1990, Hodges and his wife opened a small firm in La Jolla working on residential and light commercial projects. Briefly he worked at a large international architectural and engineering firm in Los Angeles. One satisfying challenge he explained was working with artist Do Ho Suh on his site-specific sculpture "Fallen Star," a little twisted and skewed Greek revival cottage on top of a seven-story building on the University of California, San Diego campus.
He began volunteering for the Board in 2004 as both a CSE Commissioner and a
Master Commissioner. He has volunteered more than 600 hours for CSE related
activities, including serving as a member of the CSE Standard Setting and Item
Writing Committees. Hodges stated,
During the time of oral examinations, it was great to get to know fellow architects from around the state and to meet
the candidates. I had the opportunity to participate in standards setting and examination writing on several occasions. Those experiences offered a wonderful
time to reflect on what really matters in the practice of architecture, particularly in those issues that affect life safety, a responsible knowledge of the
codes and regulations affecting the field, and sufficient knowledge to practice architecture with minimal liability exposure. Hodges also recruited fellow
architects to participate as Commissioners for CSE administrations, and recruited
new licensees to assist with the CSE pilot testing. Hodges feels volunteering for
the Board is an awarding opportunity to give something back to the profession, and he continues to learn by working with the profession.
Hodges advises anyone who is considering becoming an architect to, "…study sufficiently to graduate, visit art museums, and travel to achieve a broader experience. Independently develop your own drawing and painting skills. Early in your career get experience in a variety of firms to determine the aspects you love the most. Take the opportunity to give back to the profession. You are bound to learn something every time you participate. Meeting and working with fellow architects is rewarding in its own right. This will give you a chance to reflect on what is really important in the practice of architecture."