New Architecture Scholarship Honors the Influence of Jim Steed

Architect Jim Steed was a physically imposing figure of a man with an even larger heart and a huge passion for his profession. The firm that bears his name did not hesitate to establish a fitting tribute: The SHP Leading Design Endowed Scholarship in Memory of James E. Steed. SHP launched it with the first $50,000 gift.

“We always knew Jim was one of the giants of our profession,” explains SHP Leading Design President Lauren Della Bella. “When he passed away in July at the age of 92 we discovered his influence was even greater and far-reaching than we ever realized.

“Once word spread about his passing, I was overwhelmed by the number of people whose lives he touched. The stories started pouring in from past associates, clients, vendors and former co-op students. What an impact he had on their professional lives! We heard things like:

• He was the greatest teacher I ever had

• He made me the professional I am today

• When you were in a room with him he made you feel like you were the only person there with him. He made you feel that special.

• Jim was the ultimate example of a great human being

“All of us at the firm had a story about how he affected our own lives. We sat and talked after we received the sad news and recalled his favorite stories. Many had a lesson attached to them,” Della Bella recalls. “Of course he had a serious side. He was firm but fair with an unbelievable work ethic and a contagious spirit to be the best professional you could be.”

Perhaps that came from his military service as part of “the Greatest Generation” during World War II. After high school he joined the U.S. Army, where he was sent to the South Pacific as an Amtrak commander.  His battalion led assaults on beaches in the Solomon Islands, the Philippines and city of Manila. One of the greatest feats in his life was being part of “The Great Raid” on Los Banos prisoner of war camp, where his unit freed 2,146 civilian prisoners of war just hours before they were to be executed.

That meticulous, benevolent spirit remained with him as he enrolled in the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning thanks to the GI Bill. Immediately he was pegged as the serious, consummate professional with a contagious zest for life and a gift for telling a good yarn. He graduated in 1952 and was awarded the American Institute of Architects Medal for academics and excellence in design. Teaching and mentoring others soon became part of his DNA.

Following a short stint at a firm in Alabama, Steed returned to Cincinnati to join Hair, Hetterich, and Siegel, the firm that began as Fredrick Mueller in 1901 and would eventually become SHP Leading Design.  Within two years Steed became a partner and was named president of the firm in 1971.  Steed was responsible for the design of Taft and Stephen T. Badin senior high schools in Hamilton, Ohio, which ultimately set the stage for SHP to become experts in educational design.

He is the "S," Gerry Hammond, who passed away eight years ago, is the "H" and Andy Paul, retired to Florida where he successfully weathered the recent hurricanes, is the "P."  SHP, one of the oldest firms in the country, is known for providing full service design solutions to complex institutional and commercial projects. They have continuously remained on the forefront of client-centric design and sustainability. The firm now has offices in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, and Bellevue, Kentucky.

Steed’s legacy also extends to other skill areas. He was known to be a detail-oriented, avid problem-solver who relished using real life situations as teaching moments for the firm’s staff as well as the over 200 DAAP co-op students who passed through the doors over a 30 year span. Those students learned to draw, plan and collaborate with others as they delved into every aspect of architecture under Steed’s expansive, paternal wings.

Della Bella is proud of the firm’s long history of using co-ops. In fact, they typically have several UC co-ops, across the firm’s many disciplines each semester.  In addition to architecture and planning, some students come from the University’s marketing and business departments.  The philosophy for decades has been steadfast:  professionals have a responsibility to assist students in the same way that others helped them with their career starts. Maybe that has something to do with why six of the 10 partners at SHP are DAAP alumni.

Mentoring and coaching future leaders in the firm is of utmost importance. Della Bella can attest to that. She is the first female president in the firm’s history. She attributes much of her ascent to Steed’s support and tutelage.

So creating a scholarship with a $50,000 corpus was an easy decision for Della Bella and the SHP family. They also had some scholarship experience establishing an annual scholarship in mechanical engineering in honor of Josh Gentry, a wonderful employee who died unexpectedly while still in his twenties.

The question now is where to go from here to expand the legacy of a larger-than-life man who made such a profound impact on so many individuals for over four decades.

“We plan to hold an event so that those who were touched by Jim’s extraordinary talents can be a part of his legacy,” Della Bella reveals. “We have a huge opportunity to keep adding to this endowed scholarship so DAAP can assist students for generations to come. I am sure Jim would be thrilled to know that clients, colleagues, vendors, alumni and those 200 former co-op students will step forward  to keep alive in perpetuity his dream for educating the next generation of professionals.”

Information will be forthcoming on the Jim Steed Endowed Scholarship event. In the meantime, questions and donations can be directed to the DAAP Development Office at 513-556-1143.

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