STI graduate Coursey claims prestigious honor, continues to prosper as architect

Coursey Receiving FellowshipNov. 23, 2015 – Gary Coursey has made a name for himself as an architect since his graduation from Southern Technical Institute, which at the time was in DeKalb County but is now Kennesaw State University’s Marietta Campus. 

After earning his Associate of Science in building construction technology from STI in 1961, Coursey went on to receive a B.S. in architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1970.

Coursey has been recognized not just locally, but across the nation and internationally as well. In January, he was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The Jury of Fellows from the AIA chose to elevate Coursey to a Fellow because of his notable contributions to the advancement of the profession of architecture.

“It is a distinct honor to be elevated to Fellowship with the AIA and to be recognized by such an elite group of my peers for the body of work that I have generated in the last 45 years,” Coursey said. “I consider it a privilege to be recognized by the governing body of my profession.

“Although this honor was bestowed upon me, it also recognizes the successful work generated by my firm over the last four decades, both from a project status and from community service that has been provided around the globe.”

Coursey picked up his award in May during the 2015 AIA Convention, which was held in Atlanta.

The firm Coursey mentioned, Gary B. Coursey and Associates Architects, has been a mainstay in Atlanta since 1971, just a few months after his graduation from Georgia Tech. Since forming the company, which focuses on innovative design, Coursey has completed numerous projects representing more than $8 billion in construction costs.

“The long-term success of my company quite literally boils down to being prepared when the opportunity arises,” Coursey said. “I have the resources to provide design services for a very wide and diverse market for both the public and the private sector. It is through this variety that my firm has been fortunate enough to weather the architectural and economic rollercoaster we have experienced over the last four decades.

“Currently, my firm is involved in a wide variety of projects starting with our newest high-density student housing project of 12 acres in downtown Atlanta to multiple student-housing projects extending from Boca Raton, Florida, to Bellingham, Washington. My firm also specializes in market-rate multi-family projects of which we currently have several in various levels of development.

“I also have a real estate license which has afforded me the opportunity to be involved in real estate development projects which has allowed me the opportunity to be a part of the ownership team as well as express my architectural design.”

Throughout the history of his thriving business, Coursey has seen great value in hiring other graduates of STI, more recently named Southern Polytechnic State University before its consolidation with Kennesaw State.

“Southern Poly graduates are instilled with a greater source of learning and a ‘can do’ attitude that helps mold their integrity and character,” Coursey said. “Southern Poly inspired these same individuals to use those qualities to produce the highest caliber projects from inception to completion. These graduates who have worked for my firm over the years help to instill in other employees this same sense of learning, integrity and leadership which are the same elements that I created my company’s foundation on.”

So, what about Coursey’s experience as an STI student himself? How did his education help him get to where he is today?

“I earned my Southern Poly degree when it was located at PDK (Peachtree-DeKalb) Airport, which was certainly a more modest campus than today at KSU,” Coursey said. “The PDK Airport was, quite literally, comprised of five buildings on an old military base, but it was at Southern Poly that I formulated my growth and desire to become an architect. Needless to say, this environment provided no inspiration for architecture. However, the excellent professors at Southern Tech provided me a great foundation for knowledge of the architectural profession.

“I grew up in a small town and I guess you could say I had a very humble beginning. As a student at Southern Poly, that same humble background gave me the tools I needed to appreciate the school and all it offered to me. It was a perfect match and it was the combination of my personal life, coupled with my education at Southern Poly that contributed to my wanting to further my education, which has given me the tools necessary to continue design work into the 21st-century culture.”

Even though Coursey received his degree from Southern Poly many years ago, he has remained close to his alma mater as a supporter of the architecture program. An event that Coursey was a founding member of and strongly supports every year is the Jim Fausett Golf Classic, which raises scholarship money for architecture students.

“My involvement with the JFGC is to aid in building the bridge between the architectural building products and the construction industry, and allows these students the opportunity to continue their education with financial aid,” Coursey said. “My support is and has always been to help provide these students who endeavor to achieve an architectural degree the opportunity to do so, and these funds in the 11 years we have held the classic have produced over $150,000 in scholarships to worthy students.

“In my efforts to provide scholarship money, I always draw on my memories as a student and the limited educational funds that I had during my time at Southern Tech. I know how much the funds we raise benefit those in need and who desire an architectural education, and it is a privilege to be a part of such a generous and giving organization.”

Also over the past 11 years, Coursey has been a member of SPSU’s Architectural Advisory Board. He stated that he stays in constant contact with Professor James Fausett and others who keep him current on the evolution of the curriculum from year to year.

As he mentioned earlier, Coursey and his company have also made an impact globally. Coursey’s expertise and talent has taken him to all parts of the world where he has led building projects for the less fortunate in 27 states and on four continents. In a remote area of Kenya, he donated his services to the Beat the Drum Village – which provides family-style housing, food, clothing, education and medical care for children orphaned by and living with HIV/AIDS – and in Calcutta he gave his time toward housing and educational facilities that provide an opportunity for young women to give healthcare services to indigent people.

Although he is a very busy man and has not been a college student for quite some time, Coursey still cares deeply about his alma mater, the new KSU.

“As someone who has spent their whole professional life in the Atlanta area, I am aware of the growth that Kennesaw State University has experienced over the last decade, as well as the increasing number of graduates,” Coursey said. “Southern Poly’s merger with Kennesaw State is a welcome opportunity for both current and future students, and offers even greater potential for all students who desire a higher level of learning in their architectural education.”