25 Years of St Charles and 25 Years of Triad – From Guest Blogger Jim Lower and Triad Partner Brent Foley
An important part of my journey to becoming an architect and a partner at Triad came from my decision to attend St Charles Preparatory School for High School. I grew up on the southeast corner of Columbus in the neighborhood best defined by the intersection of Refugee Rd and Noe Bixby Rd. I recently looked it up on Google Maps and they call it the Walnut Heights neighborhood, but we never called it that. The best landmarks to reference the neighborhood are Independence High School and Nafzger Park. I lived square between those two landmarks. The neighborhood was a great place to grow up. The community was diverse. We lived on a cul-de-sac where all the kids would come to play, and our neighbors were all friendly. After I moved away, I would always bring my soccer gear when I visited my parents’ house to participate in the epic, international, ongoing soccer game that seemed to take place every day at Nafzger. Unfortunately for me, the school I was attending in 8th grade was not challenging me in the ways I needed challenged. It wasn’t a bad school, just not the right school for me. My mom worked in the cafeteria at St Charles. I don’t remember the conversation exactly, but I mentioned maybe going to St Charles-there was no going back after that.
There were a few key things that St Charles did to change my trajectory. First, I went from a solid A student who did not have to work too hard to a solid B/C student who had to work his butt off. My dad still tells the story of me coming home after the first day wanting to give up after being assigned 4 hours of homework. My dad didn’t let me give up. At St Charles, I also learned to fail. As I mentioned, I did not have to apply myself much at my previous school. So, when I wrote my first paper for John O’Neill’s English class, I got a D and I was devastated. John let me re-write the paper and averaged the grades of the two papers I wrote. From there, I grew to love reading and writing. At St Charles, I was also compelled to think about morality, faith, and ethics…and to form my own opinions on them. I remember reading St Thomas Aquinas and learning about both informing and following my conscience. Lastly, I was exposed to friends from different socio-economic backgrounds. I grew up with friends whose parents were “working class”; folks who were hard working plumbers, electricians, etc. Now I was being exposed to friend’s parents who were also attorneys, engineers…and architects. One of those friend’s dad, Dave Price, offered me an internship, hired me at Triad after college, and eventually made me a partner in the firm. I would not be here at Triad today without all of this. This experience shaped my career, my perspectives, and my desire to make Triad a place that creates opportunities for everyone.
In 2013, this all came full circle when I scheduled a meeting with Jim Lower, the current principal at St Charles and asked him if Triad could be of service. Jim was the Dean of Students my Junior and Senior Year at St Charles and I spent some time in his office back in those days. Since that time, we have become the architect for the school and have completed many projects. I recently asked Jim to share some thoughts from our 25-year relationship/friendship perspective, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the founding of Triad.
Triad Architects has been a valued partner of St. Charles Preparatory School since 2013, when Brent Foley, class of 1998, walked into my office with a proposal to work with St. Charles on any construction project that was coming down the road. Brent was a “spirited young man” when he attended St. Charles, but he has delivered in so many ways as our professional relationship has grown.
Since that initial meeting, Brent and his team have helped in some way with these projects or improvements on the St. Charles campus:
- The design and construction of the Jack Ryan Student Training Facility in 2014.
- The design and construction of the ne Physics lab on the 3rd floor of our Academic building in 2016
- The collaboration with Kobolt Studios in the renovation and restoration of the Holy Angels Library in 2015, the Our Mother of Mercy Chapel in 2016, and the Theater in 2016.
- The design and construction of the Robotics and Mentoring Center at our West Campus in 2018.
- The design and construction of the Frank E. Murphy Convocation Center on our Main Campus 2021-2023.
- The design of the new Learning Resource Center on our Main Campus 2022-2023.
I am deeply proud of all these projects, but I am particularly proud of our work on the mentoring center. When St Charles was founded, Bishop Hartley was determined to make sure that it was a school where students were taught the value of working hard, were held to high standards, and where young men pursued well-rounded spiritual growth. It was also important and critical to the mission of the school that no student be denied access due to financial means. That tradition has flourished, and St Charles now has a large endowment that serves just that purpose, providing scholarships for students who can’t afford to attend. It has also resulted in programs like the My Brother’s Keeper program geared towards providing peer mentorship for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. This notion, along with my own experiences at St Charles, were some of the seeds that put an intense desire in me to help folks who have barrier towards the profession of architecture with the goal of providing meaningful diversity and representation in the field – a deep desire to make Triad a place that creates opportunity for everyone.
Most recently, we have undertaken the largest project on the campus in the last 100 years: the Frank E. Murphey Convocation Center and new Learning Resource Center. These projects have required our team to become more deeply engrained in the community that is St Charles., which includes teachers, staff, students, alumni, partner alumni architects, neighbors, and the broader Bexley and Columbus Community. We have had to ensure that the voices of all stakeholders have been heard and considered to make sure that the project is the best that it can possibly be. Jim shared his thoughts on this.
All along the way, Triad Architects has been a good partner, always working with our stakeholders and others who are part of the project. Whether it is gathering information from teachers, educators, and coaches who will be using the spaces, or other architects or contractors involved, Triad has always shown a great willingness to work toward a common goal and finish. They are not too territorial in their design or ideas; they are willing to compromise to meet the needs and priorities of the project.
Brent and his team have represented St. Charles in public review boards or commissions and have always been well-prepared and professional in their delivery. They have established themselves and know key members of the various boards. There is a personal but professional relationship that is established before the meetings begin, thus creating for a smoother and desirable outcome in the end.
Brent has always been there, day or night, to answer questions or concerns. His team is well-prepared and represents Triad well when he is not able to take a call or meeting. Their customer service has been one constant that we have grown to rely on as we move forward. It has been rewarding to see Brent and his team perform other work in the Diocese of Columbus. I believe they are considered a valued partner by many in our area.
St. Charles values its relationship with Triad Architects and is very proud of the leadership provided by one of its graduates, Brent Foley, ’98.
Triad and St Charles are two constants in my life that have kept me grounded over the last quarter century – my entire adult life. I could not be more proud to be a part of both!