Thursday, April 16, 2015

Intern meets Partner

Picture it. The year: 1995. The place: the lunchroom. A new summer intern sits eating his bag lunch in silence. I will save you the suspense and tell you it was me. It was May and I hadn't met a lot of people yet. There were a lot of people on vacation, in fact, I recall that I started the the week that Gregg Scott (the partner I was ultimately to work for) had gone on his honeymoon. I had met only the people to whom I had been assigned to work that week - we were building a very detailed model with several people in the office. I had yet to meet any of the partners, other than maybe on my initial office tour, but that would have been very briefly.

Bob Patrick came out of his office at the bottom of the stairs that day and sat down at the table adjacent to me. He pulled out his sack lunch and revealed his bologna sandwich. I would see him pull out that exact same sandwich every single day at lunch, no exceptions.

Bob Patrick - note the sack lunch to his right in the picture.

I had no idea yet as to how the office worked. I knew Bob was a partner and I think I realized he wrote those very thick, typed books I had seen. But I really didn’t know anything else about him or any of the partners yet. After we ate in silence for a few moments, he acknowledged me sitting across from him and said, "So, you go to Penn State, huh?" I didn’t know if he knew me specifically from any of the other interns or not. There were four of us and we all went to Penn State, and I guess he knew that. I said that I did go to Penn State, and failing to think of anything else intelligent to say in reply I asked, "Where did you go to school?"

Bob in his office.

"I didn’t!", he replied gruffly. I about soiled myself. I certainly didn’t mean to insult anyone, least of all a partner. Here I had just started and I had ticked off someone whose name was on the letterhead. I had failed to consider that there were other means to becoming an architect, one of which took alternative methods of learning into account and did not require a college degree of any kind. Then he said, "I did it the old fashioned way, by working." He went on to explain, in a somewhat less intimidating fashion, that he had experience in the Armed Forces in an engineering battalion along with the time he spent working in civilian life that counted toward the 13 years the registration board required for someone to take the exams.

Bob's retirement party in 1996.  He would continue to work with us for several years.

That was my first experience with Bob or any other partner in the office for that matter. Bob retired about a year later but continued to work part time on a variety of projects for quite some time. I worked directly with him on several occasions, and eventually learned that I could talk to him as a colleague. From that first conversation we had in the lunchroom, he always seemed just a little bit scary to me. That fear may have a very small part in the esteem I had for Bob, but mostly it was just respect for the man and his work ethic. He was as consistent with his work as he was with his bologna sandwich.

Bob's lunch.