Hanging Up the Hat

All good things must come to an end, and as this year closes, we’re celebrating new chapters for not one, but two retirees. Join us in bidding a fond farewell to Dave Sands, AIA, and JP Vaughan, RA. Both Dave and JP have made a real mark at Baskervill, and we know their wit and expertise will always be a part of our teams. Their departures are bittersweet; we recognize retiring longtime employees is a privilege, and as we mark the end of our 120th year, we’re acutely aware of how notable this is.

“When you think about it, how many design firms get to celebrate this many retirements?” asks Chairman and Principal Brent Farmer, AIA. “So many firms go out of business before they’re even able to celebrate just one.”

But before JP and Dave say goodbye, we’re taking a moment to honor their long careers with a few stories and words of wisdom.

These days—with an economy earmarked by job-hopping—you don’t often come across someone who sticks with one company for the long haul. But that’s exactly what Dave Sands, AIA, did, spending the entirety of his 48-year career as an architect at Baskervill. He got his start in the late 1960s, when he took a drafting job during school breaks. After graduating from Virginia Tech in 1969, Dave began work at Baskervill full-time, and since then he’s done it all; everything from drafting to design to project management and leadership.

His early portfolio is notably diverse, because back then the firm didn’t have defined studios. “Everyone sat in a row, and everyone got a chance to work on everything,” Dave says. When the firm (and overall industry) shifted to a studio-specific model, he focused on healthcare design, in part because of his technical expertise–but also due to a personal connection. Years earlier, Dave spent two weeks in intensive care fighting a life-threatening illness. “It means something to me to have worked on spaces that help people get better.”

And he’s done just that, jumping into a number of projects from linear accelerators and MRI suites to pharmacies, operating rooms, and ambulatory clinics. Retreat Hospital, Virginia Commonwealth University’s nine-story, 218,000-SF Gateway Building, and life safety studies at MCV’s West Hospital are among the many major projects he’s touched.

“Dave looks at details in a way others don’t,” says Principal Bruce Tyler, AIA. “His knowledge of codes is second to none.”

Dave’s one-company career has been anything but monotonous, with surprises sprinkled throughout. The highlight of his career, he says? Being part of the design team for Richmond’s storied minor league baseball stadium: The Diamond. A high school pitcher, Dave saw the chance to design a stadium as more than once-in-a-lifetime; a serendipitous opportunity.

En route to pitch (pun intended) Baskervill’s concepts for the project, Dave found a face-up penny in the parking lot. Acknowledging the good sign, he pocketed the token of fortune, and when our firm won the design competition, he proudly displayed the lucky penny in his office. (Still to this day, it hangs, taped to a yellowed sheet of letterhead.)

Seeing the good, staying positive—these are qualities Dave has clung to throughout his career, and they’re values he hopes young designers will uphold. “A positive attitude is everything.”

They’re also the very characteristics our team will miss most about Dave, says Brent. “He has such an ability to grab hold of tough problems and make them work in meaningful ways. He is a problem-solver through and through, and he’s touched so many lives through his career.”

Thirteen years ago, JP Vaughan began the final act of his nearly 40-year career: working as an architect here at Baskervill. In that time, our team has discovered much about JP—his fondness for designing birdhouses (a throwback to his childhood days building treehouses); his passion for mentoring young designers; his methodical approach to design that’s been a perfect match for our banking clients.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better experience,” JP says. “As I prepare to retire at the end of the year and look back on my career and my time at Baskervill, it’s all about the relationships I had with both my coworkers and my clients.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Alan Davis, AIA, a principal in our banking + retail studio. “JP is like a paratrooper; he’s one of a handful of people that can get to the end of this profession and not get pigeonholed. Instead, he’s a resource that you can drop into the middle of a project, able to dive in and wear a lot of hats.”

JP got his start at a small Richmond design firm working on bank branches, then moved to planning neighborhood developments for another small firm, after which he did a short stint as a planner at Richmond’s parks and rec department, before making his way back to retail bank design at Baskervill.

He’s no stranger to the rapidly changing landscape of financial brands; he’s had a front row seat to a number of mergers over the years, as well as many other shifting trends within the financial industry. Case in point: JP recently wrapped up a project for SunTrust, which happened to be his first client after graduating from Virginia Tech in 1974. (Technically, the client was United Virginia Bank, which became Crestar Bank, which ultimately became SunTrust.) But the project he is most proud of? A physical culmination of these changing tides: a credit union member center with a design approach that echoes its guiding customer philosophy of transparency and openness when talking about money.

For JP, the aspect of his career he’s been the most passionate about is working as a team, where each person stretches the other creatively. “In 40 years, a lot changes, but the basics are the same. Being true to ourselves as designers, doing what’s right for clients, and being creative with our solutions—those things remain true.”

He imagines much of his life will also stay the same even after he retires; there may be a few more home projects, a couple extra trips to his beachfront condo, and more time to create birdhouses. What will never change? His appetite for life and design. “You’ve got to be excited about every day, and you’ve got to learn something new every day. Ask questions, keep your eyes open. Be passionate. That’s all there is.”