Name: Cathy Morrison, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Current Title: Architect
Office Location: Charlotte, NC
Years at Gresham Smith: 3
Meet Cathy Morrison, a business development lead and architect in our Charlotte-Richmond Healthcare studio, and our latest Faces of Gresham Smith feature. Passionate about staying involved in professional groups and giving back to her community, Morrison is dedicated to designing smart, sustainable solutions that improve the health of communities. Keep reading to learn how Cathy got her start in architecture and what her biggest piece of advice is.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in New York City. South Ozone Park, Queens, to be specific.
Where did you go to college?
I earned my Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a Master of Architecture and Master of Arts in Geography—Community Planning from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
What was your first job?
My first job was working at my parents’ private medical practice. I guess it made financial sense to them to hire in the family and give me a paycheck, rather than giving me an allowance in high school! My father is a hematologist-oncologist and my mother was a pediatric endocrinologist. I worked as a receptionist, a lab technician and even a materials manager, and did billing during the summer and weekends.
My first architecture job was during my sophomore year of college at a small custom residential firm outside of Washington, D.C. called Travis Price Architects.
How has Gresham Smith helped you in your career development?
Besides my role as a project architect, I recently assumed the role of business development lead for the Charlotte/Richmond Healthcare market. That was an exciting career shift for me. I have had a lot of supportive people in the firm helping me along the way.
What’s your favorite Gresham Smith memory?
My favorite memory is from the 2019 Celebration, an annual firmwide event that the company hosts to honor our people, practice and projects, because I was named an Associate! I got to travel from Charlotte to Nashville, and it was fun to finally meet so many people from other offices in person that I have worked with virtually.
What made you choose your profession?
I knew that I didn’t want to become a doctor like my parents, so instead I “majored” in art in high school. That path meant that I took art classes instead of science classes most years. I have always loved drawing, painting and creating. Architecture was the compromise that my parents and I negotiated when I was looking at colleges. I agreed that I would give it a try, and I ended up loving it!
What advice would you give to people who aspire to be where you are?
Be yourself. Do what you love.
I have served on the board of directors for AIA Charlotte, AIA North Carolina and the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. I currently serve on the North Carolina Board of Architecture and on the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) committees. I frequently get asked why I am involved in so many extracurricular organizations. My response is I don’t do anything that I don’t think is fun. I truly love connecting with people and making a difference in my community and profession.
What are some highlights of your life so far?
- Easily my two kids! Saul is 3 years old and Fred is 5 years old. They keep my life grounded and interesting.
- Project ribbon cuttings are always a highlight. I love seeing people’s initial reactions to spaces that we designed. A memorable one was early in my career at the renovation of the Student Union at Johnson C. Smith University. The ribbon cutting was during the school’s homecoming, and within minutes the student union was filled with students playing pool and using the space just as it was intended.
Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled to and why?
I visited Australia on my honeymoon. Pictures of the Sydney Opera House just don’t do the design details justice. We spent way longer there than originally scheduled, just walking around in awe of the amazing architecture. We also discovered that the Great Barrier Reef is truly one of the world’s great natural wonders.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I played on two female flag football leagues in undergrad, one on campus and one with other schools in the D.C. area. I played center and linebacker. We were the campus intermural champions all four years!