Announcing KU ArcD Alumni Award winners

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Architecture & Design has announced the recipients of the 2021 KU Architecture & Design Alumni Awards.

Established in 2017, the KU Architecture & Design Alumni Awards recognize graduates of the architecture and design departments at KU who have demonstrated leadership and made a significant contribution to the design professions. Awards are given in three categories: Distinguished Alumni, Distinguished Alumni Service and Young Architect/Designer. Additionally, this year, two architecture graduates, Bryan Gross and Dennis Wellner, were honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards.

“I am delighted to present this year’s winners of the KU Architecture & Design Alumni Awards,” said Mahbub Rashid, dean of the School of Architecture & Design. “As designers, these individuals exemplify how best to take care of our built environment, planet and future. As a school, we are very proud of their achievements. They provide us with a superior model to follow.”

Distinguished Alumni Awards

Mariah Meyer is president and CEO of BRR Architecture. A 2002 architecture graduate, Meyer is the first woman to be named to this position in the firm’s 59-year history. Since joining BRR in 2010, she has managed multifunctional, award-winning client teams focusing on projects in hospitality and corporate environments. The work spanned across 28 states, and her team’s headcount increased by 81%. Beyond leading strategic planning and growth at BRR, Meyer is an engaged advocate for architectural education. She is a member of the KU School of Architecture & Design’s Professional Advisory Board and is actively involved in KU Women in Design, where she mentors aspiring young architects.

Sarah Mason Sears is the founder, principal and creative director at S Design Inc. An award-winning branding and design practitioner, Sears has led projects for some of the world’s most iconic brands, civic and state organizations, and nonprofits. Since graduating from KU in 1992 with bachelor’s degrees in visual communication design and illustration, she has won over 120 design awards and has been honored as an AIGA Fellow.

Distinguished Alumni Service Award

David Broz is principal-architect at Gensler. After graduating in 1997 with honors, he built a successful architecture career that was guided by an ethical and community-centered approach to design. He has initiated and led multiple volunteer and pro bono community masterplans that are reshaping Chicago's downtown and redefining urban placemaking standards. An advocate for design that is created in collaboration with community organizations and individual citizens, Broz leverages his architectural training to unite people, places and ideas. His passion for identifying and communicating practical, solutions-based strategies has been a major catalyst for revitalizing urban spaces and advancing the American Institute of Architect's Principles of Livable Communities. Since 2011, Broz has been involved with the Chicago Loop Alliance (CLA), a nonprofit dedicated to attracting people and investment to the Loop in Chicago’s downtown. In 2015, Broz became the first architect to serve as CLA’s chair of the board and brought a new community-focused approach to the role.

Young Architect/Designer Awards

Jon Gripka is an associate and director of design at BRR Architecture. He works with multiple teams across the firm to provide high-level design services for grocery, retail, hospitality, industrial and office environments projects. Throughout his career, Gripka has been critical to the continual evolution and implementation of the BRR design process, and he has played an essential role in developing the firm’s brand standards for conceptual design presentations. Gripka earned a bachelor’s degree in architectural studies in 2008 and a master’s in architecture in 2011.

Michael MacGregor is the co-founder of MODUS Architecture where he leads the firm’s project management and project delivery. As technical designer, project manager and firm partner, he has led projects to success and allowed his organizations to position themselves as industry leaders. MacGregor earned master’s degrees in architecture and business administration in 2013.

Callum Vierthaler is director of innovation at Pulse Design Group and lecturer in the Department of Architecture at KU. Since graduating summa cum laude with a master’s in architecture in 2017, he has demonstrated leadership as an innovative practitioner with unique skills in the application of virtual reality to design. As an educator, Vierthaler has spearheaded the School of Architecture & Design’s efforts to integrate virtual reality technology into the traditional design studio.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Bryan Gross is an architect and principal at Helix. After graduating with bachelor’s degrees in environmental design in 1980 and architecture in 1982, Gross has led award-winning projects that have improved neighborhoods, transformed college campuses and advanced sustainable architectural design. Early in his career he worked on prominent projects such as the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City and the U.S. embassy in Caracas, Venezuela. Later projects in Kansas City include the iconic stagehouse at Starlight Theatre, the masterplan and multiple buildings for the 18th & Vine historic jazz district, and multiple educational buildings. A passionate advocate for ecologically responsive and responsible architecture, Gross has led the design of multiple LEED Gold and LEED Platinum projects, one of which was honored with a prestigious Top Ten Green Project award by the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment.

Dennis Wellner is founder and senior principal at Populous. After earning bachelor’s degrees in architecture and environmental design from KU in 1973, he went on to become one of the most widely acclaimed football stadium designers in the United States and helped build a practice with global reach. His visionary approach to stadium design is responsible for creating some of the first NFL stadiums to incorporate extensive amenities for fans. The success of these projects showed how stadiums could work as immersive entertainment experiences rather than just spectator seating and helped to revolutionize sports stadium design throughout the world. His portfolio of award-winning projects includes stadiums in Kansas City, Foxborough, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Charlotte, Miami, Tampa, Houston, and Cleveland. Wellner was an original founding principal of HOK Sport in 1983, which became the global design firm Populous in 2009. He has directly impacted more than $10 billion in sports venue design and construction across the United States. Populous’ global footprint now includes over 700 associates working on over 3,000 projects with venues in 34 countries that have attracted over 520 million visitors in the past 10 years.