Michigan Architectural Foundation board member Tom Mathison, FAIA’s first involvement with MAF began with his contributions to MAF’s Past (AIA Michigan) President’s fund for architecture student scholarships.
“I have a passion for education and as a past president of AIA Michigan, supporting the scholarship fund made a lot of sense,” Tom said.
Tom was invited to be a MAF Board member in 2006. Since then, he has participated in a number of MAF committees and activities, including the Foundation’s Auction Committee, Development Committee, Executive Committee, K-12 Committee, and the newly-formed Education Awareness Grant Committee.
“MAF now offers ten scholarships through the generosity of inspired individuals and organizations who want to support the educational and professional opportunities for future architects,” said Tom. “The number and amount of MAF’s scholarships continues to grow, and MAF is now partnering with AIA Michigan chapters to develop endowed scholarship programs.”
In addition to his involvement with MAF, Tom is a co-founder, with son, Evan, of Mathison | Mathison Architects (MMA). The Grand Rapids, MI-based firm has a staff of 20 architects and interior designers, including firm principals Tom, Evan, Megan Feenstra Wall, and Ben Franceschi.
In keeping with his passion for education, Tom cites MAF’s educational programs and initiatives among his favorites. “The programs have been an area of growth and diversity for MAF and have created interest in architecture across the generations.” MAF’s K-12 programs include its ‘Architecture for Youth’ YouTube channel, which hosts MAF’s “ArchiTreks” series, and “Architecture, It’s Elementary” videos; and MAF’s “Build Imagination” program, which includes a book collection and architecture-related STEAM-based toys for elementary students; each are available through Michigan libraries. MAF also has a “100 Essential Architecture Books” collection for adult audiences, available through inter-library loan.
MAF also supports “Project Pipeline”, NOMA Detroit’s (National Association of Minority Architects) free summer camp program that introduces urban youth to architecture and the built environment. MAF has supported the camps through its Architecture Awareness Grants program since 2016.
For Tom, a standout MAF milestone is witnessing the growth of MAF’s Evans Graham Preservation Grant. “Originally named for preservationist and architect David Evans, this annual grant has touched many communities across Michigan by supporting the preservation or restoration of Michigan architecture, and has spotlighted both iconic structures and distinctive, local examples of architecture that play a role in recognizing our rich history. When the Graham family contributed the major gift that accelerated the program, MAF changed the name of the grant to Evans Graham as we began to envision the great potential of the grant. That single gift amplified the grant’s impact and inspired others to help it grow exponentially.”
He continues, “Overall, the size of MAF’s endowment has grown substantially over the years, and has allowed even more grants to be awarded each year across all of MAF’s programs. The increasing popularity of our fundraiser events has encouraged more people to be involved in MAF, leading to a rise in the number of donors and the size of donations.”
Tom notes that MAF’s success should also be credited to the commitment of its Board members to ensure the Foundation’s impact into the future.
“MAF has developed the kind of organizational structure, lean management approach, and operational strategy to move it toward significant growth in several key areas: greater outreach through an effective, creative communications strategy that allows us to reach more people; broader, more diverse participation in our committees, events, and our Board; an expanded donor base; and partnerships with like-minded organizations to leverage MAF’s ability to fulfill its mission of advancing awareness of how architecture enriches life.”
Tom believes the future holds even more exciting opportunities for MAF’s growth. “For me, the most exciting opportunities for growth revolve around the notion of sharing our story and communicating MAF’s increasing impact – I love hearing the testimonials of how a grant or scholarship made a difference in someone’s life or community, or how our programs have reached more people and more places.”
Photos from top: Tom at the MMA offices; with son and MMA co-founder, Evan; Tom addressing the audience at the 2018 MAF Donor Event (during his tenure as MAF President); with 2018 MAF scholarship recipients at the same event (Tom is pictured far right; far left is MAF 2020-2021 MAF President and MAF Scholarship Chair Tim Casai, FAIA).