It is rare for an individual to have such a positive and lasting impact on everything he touched as Leslie D. (Les) Tincknell, FAIA, did. Les sadly passed away on January 17, 2024, leaving a profound legacy for the people, profession, and the foundation he loved. (read Les’ obituary).
From MAF’s inception, Les was instrumental in building and growing the foundation. He served on the MAF board for 30 years, in roles including president and treasurer, and on multiple MAF committees. As treasurer, under Les’ financial leadership, MAF’s endowment more than quadrupled. He was the recipient of several state and national AIA honors, and in 2016, Les received MAF’s Leadership Award. (read MAF’s profile on Les, on our Donors page).
“Les was the ‘grandfather’ of today’s Michigan Architectural Foundation and one of the finest human beings on the planet,” said Carl Roehling, FAIA, MAF Board Treasurer and Trustee. “It is rare in one’s lifetime to have a colleague, friend and mentor that richly influences your life and those of many others. Les’ warmth, thoughtfulness, and generosity were truly uncommon, and those of us that have had the privilege of knowing him were lifted by his grace. I will always be indebted to him for being an example of the kind of person I strive to become.”
Les was also president of Wigen Tincknell Meyer & Associates, Inc from 1976 until he sold his ownership in 1993 (Les joined the firm, then Frederick E. Wigen Architect & Associates, in 1958 and became a partner in 1963. The firm is now known as WTA Architects (Wigen Tincknell Associates) to reflect its two earliest founding principals). Les was an extremely talented and gifted designer. In his early days as the Director of Design for the firm, Les produced an incredible portfolio of Mid-Century Modern work. The Great Lakes Bay Area is filled with examples of his cutting-edge design work. During Les’s tenure, the firm’s designs received awards from the American Institute of Architects, AIA Michigan, AIA Saginaw and other allied organizations.
“I had the distinct honor of being a partner with Les as we grew the firm and undertook many significant projects throughout Michigan,” said John T. Meyer FAIA, (a now retired partner of the firm) “Les taught me to value good design and most importantly, to honor and respect our clients and the contractors.” John continues, “Les left a lasting impression on our profession, the City of Saginaw and the state of Michigan. Importantly, he always had time for his family; his wife Marion, his children, their spouses, his grandchildren and his great granddaughter. I loved their family get-togethers with (color coded) family shirts. Les was a man who shared the love and respect of many, whom we all should honor and attempt to emulate.”
After his retirement in 1995, Les spent considerable time each week at the offices of WTA, attending to an array of pro bono projects for non-profit organizations. His work earned Les nearly every honor Saginaw could bestow upon him, including a Lifetime Community Service Award from the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce, and the Child Advocate of the Year from the Child Abuse and Neglect Council, among countless others. Read WTA’s statement about Les, on WTA’s corporate LinkedIn account.
Adds Doug Kueffner, AIA, 2022-2023 MAF President and WTA colleague, “I consider myself blessed to have known Les for over 50 years. I first met him as a third-year architectural student, naïvely looking for a summer job in the early 70s. There was no work available but Les welcomed me into his office, looked at my very meager portfolio and encouraged me to call again in future years. I got to know Les better after I joined the firm in 1986.”
Doug continued, “Les encouraged me to become more active in AIA Michigan and MAF. He insisted that I attend national leadership conferences and generously offered to pay my travel expenses so I could participate. He was president of MAF when I first joined the board, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning from him as he provided timely and thoughtful advice. Since our board meetings were scattered around the state, we would often travel to meetings together. As Les aged, I offered to drive on a more regular basis, and he jokingly referred to me as his chauffeur. We became very good friends, and he was like a second father to me.”
In 2017, MAF launched the Leslie D. Tincknell Scholarship, which is awarded to a graduate architecture program student who has demonstrated exceptional service to architects, the profession, or the community. MAF and Les also established the Tincknell Fund, supported by gifts from individuals, companies, and other foundations. The Tincknell Fund was originally slated solely to support a small scholarship. But with their desire to expand the financial impact of their scholarship, Les and his wife Marion also made substantial personal contributions to the fund. The Tincknell Scholarship is now an annual award of over $8,000, one of the largest scholarships awarded by MAF.
Les and Marion, who were married for nearly 70 years, raised four children in the mid-century modern home that Les designed. “A mutual acquaintance referred to Les as an ‘ageless spirit’ – and I think that sums Les up perfectly,” said Rae Dumke, Hon. AIA, former Executive Director of AIA Michigan and former MAF Trustee. “He was always upbeat, asking everyone how they were doing, and staying tirelessly committed to everything he was involved in. He was a man of integrity and a true confidant and friend.”
Rae continues, “Les and his wife Marion also raised a wonderful family. One of my favorite Les-related stories happened when his youngest daughter, Lisa, was getting married. Her wedding day happened to fall on the same day Les was to receive his Fellowship Medal at the AIA College of Fellows investiture, during the national AIA (American Institute of Architects) Convention. Lisa contacted the AIA national office and asked if they would send the medal to Michigan so she could surprise her dad with the medal at her wedding reception. She was not about to let her dad give up his personal ‘special day’ and made her ‘special day’ about him too.”
Added Robert (Bob) L. Ziegelman FAIA, who was a classmate of Les at the University of Michigan’s architecture school. “Moving across a lifetime, Les Tincknell was my friend for the last 70 years. He was about seven years older than me, after having serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and first earning an engineering degree. Les stood out in our class for his maturity, talent, and kindness. I was always privileged to work with him on our U of M team projects where these attributes were displayed, and remained intact for the rest of his life.”
Bob continued, “At no time over the years – such as working for 25 years together on the AIA Fellows committee and various other AIA committees, and both socially and professionally – was Les anything but a complete gentleman, a wonderful talented architect, and above all, kind. There was never a harsh or cross ward between us and I assure everyone, it wasn’t because of me! I shall miss him, as we all will. Les was one of the truly complete human beings that traveled this earth.”
Late last year, Les published a book, “Leslie D. Tincknell, FAIA, My Story: Architecture Enriches Lives” (available on Amazon.com). In the book, Les shares his experiences and perspectives on architecture’s impact, and hoped to inspire others to consider an architectural career.
Said Eugene (Gene) Hopkins, FAIA, Principal, HopkinsBurns Design Studio, “I was so fortunate to know Les professionally and as a personal friend. Years of working together in service to the profession, and sharing our experiences as fellow preservation architects, allowed us to deepen our relationship and respect for each other. Les always made himself available to listen and share his wisdom. I admired Les for his empathy, respect, honesty, humbleness, strength, professionalism, commitment, and caring attitude. He was one of a kind, and his loss leaves a huge void in our profession that no one else can emulate.”
“My first encounter with Les happened when he hired me fresh out of college,” adds Tom Reay, AIA (a retired partner of WTA), Les’ friend and colleague. “He was a great teacher and mentor, and gave me opportunities to learn and mature as an architect. His leadership and professionalism kept me at the firm for forty plus years. His passion for producing quality work was contagious and a perfect fit for me. Les was a consummate gentleman and truly wonderful person, and I valued his friendship.”
Kathleen (Kathy) E. Reis, Les’ long time administrative assistant at WTA said, “I was blessed to know Les for over 50 years as my employer, mentor, and friend. Words to describe this wonderful man seem to be limitless. He was a dedicated businessman, committed to architecture and the profession, and gained the respect of fellow architects, his partners, staff, and clients. Les was a great supporter of the Saginaw community and encouraged staff to do the same. He was instrumental in bringing out that spirit in me and getting me involved in many groups and organizations.”
Kathy continues, “I gained an appreciation of his favorite style of architecture, Midcentury-Modern, and the joy his home provided to him and the family. He enjoyed planting marigolds and geraniums in the courtyard. On a personal note, his love of family was paramount. He and Marion raised a beautiful family, with each child being a reflection of their very special parents.”
“Les was a connoisseur; a lover of great architecture, fine wine and good friends, motivated by traveling the world, a smart investor, and with his family, living a wonderful life, said Tim Casai, FAIA, a longtime fellow MAF trustee. “Les taught us to be gracious and generous and never had a bad word for anyone. He was our colleague in design with the MAF, and an inspiration to us all. We strive to live up to his example and to carry forth his legacy.”
In reflection upon his first interview with Les until their recent last visit, Doug Kueffner comments that Les was always the same wonderful person who treated everyone with the utmost respect, and genuinely cared for everyone, regardless of their title or role. “Les was a very intelligent and thoughtful man, but also extremely humble. He never wanted to talk about himself. He was always asking how you and your family were doing. He was extremely kind, compassionate, and generous.
“Of all the architects I have met in my career, no one was more respected than Les. He was the consummate professional who touched and impacted everyone he met. He lived a life that we can all aspire to. He will be dearly missed by all of us.
Thank you for your contributions, Les, and for the legacy you left to all of us.
This article was compiled in part from past-published MAF profile articles written on Les and his contributions to the foundation, his community, and the architectural profession.
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