December, 2018 / By: Laura & Hy
We are excited to launch “DPR Stories”, a platform to give you an inside look and learn more about DPR legacy and Team. For this first Special Edition, we interviewed our beloved Beth Reath, who started with DPR as a Secretary and stayed with us until she retired in 2016 as an Office Manager. Beth has insights to DPR from the humble beginning and through the thick and thin of the business. We took up with Ms. Beth Reath in one morning of December, just a few days after the 1st snowstorm hit the Charlotte region.
Hello Ms. Beth. Thank you for agreeing to this interview for DPR’s Special Edition. How is your Thursday morning?
Good morning to you. The sun is coming up here in the mountains and still we have a foot of hard packed snow on the ground. We just got out of our driveway yesterday, to make a run to the post office to send a thank you note to DPR. We had a blast at the Christmas party. My heart is full of joy after seeing my dear friends.
It was wonderful seeing you too. Christmas and holidays are special. Speaking of the mountains, we understand you and your husband, Gary, are retired and happy up in the beautiful NC mountains, how is it different from Charlotte?
In 2016, my husband and I moved to Linville which is just 2 miles from Grandfather Mountain and 20 minutes from Boone. We live up on a winding mountain road and our house is surrounded on 3 sides by a thick forest of trees and huge Rhododendron. Each day is a nature show. We have a huge variety of birds and wildlife including red fox, raccoons, turkeys, bobcats, coyotes and bears. Having a bear just outside your window is a real treat! Having grown up and lived in Charlotte most of my life, this has been a big change. I love the small town, the clean air and the lack of traffic, but miss my incredible friends in Charlotte!
What a sight indeed. I bet you have names for all of them. The best DPR has ever attracted was a squirrel named “Biff”, and I’m sure you know all about it. So with Biff and Charlotte as our common thread, how did your story begin at DPR?
My DPR story begins with song and dance! I was performing in a musical at Charlotte’s Little Theatre, now known as ‘Theater Charlotte’. Janet Russell, a Landscape Architect and original partner of Design Planning Research Associates (later shortened to DPR), was an active participant in the theater at the time. She told me they were looking for a new secretary, so I hung up my dancing shoes and went to work at DPR in October 1977.
What a wonderful beginning of a story. It must’ve felt like yesterday. How long did you stay at DPR?
I worked fulltime at DPR for 32 years. During the economic downturn of 2008, I took some time off. I then went to work at WTVI, a public television station. In 2015, I came back to my friends at DPR to work part-time until I moved to the NC mountains with my husband and retired in 2016.
What was your role(s) during your tenure at DPR?
In 1977 I was hired as secretary, but that role quickly evolved into all aspects of bookkeeping, project and financial tracking and general office management. In a way (however small) I feel that I did my part to spread the word about the profession of Landscape Architecture, as it was little known or appreciated at the time. Its design approach and philosophy were “green” before green was popular.
What does DPR stand for to you personally?
An easy answer, Service Excellence. Working at DPR opened a world of learning, challenges and exposure to many bright and wonderful people. I was challenged as an administrator to be a part of that great service to our clients by helping staff to meet deadlines, monitor projects costs, and assist clients when they needed information. Lee McLaren and Tom Duggins were the best to work for, giving me every opportunity to learn new skills and grow as an important member of their staff. Hy Nguyen, DPR’s new president, is dedicated to keeping the tradition of service excellence while incorporating fresh, new approaches to adapt to the new era. Being part of a team of professionals with high standards for quality design and service made it easy for me to take extreme pride in my own work. With that comes great satisfaction in one’s career life. Those DPR letters have meant to me, Dedication (in providing great services to our clients), Pride (in what we do), and Reward (as in personal satisfaction and fulfillment).
We have the pleasure of getting to know “Biff” the Squirrel, DPR Mascot, http://dprassociates.com/our-legacy/, through the lovely story told by you. What was DPR like in the ‘Biff’ days?
It was a small firm with 5-6 total staff members. The office was in a portion of a large and elegant old mansion oozing with character. Specifically, DPR occupied its large dining room (the drafting area), a big kitchen (the conference room), a glass porch (reception/my area) and a butler’s pantry (where supplies were kept). Other portions of the house housed offices of an Architect, an artist and a Land Planner/Developer. The house was an old beauty consisting of high ceilings, a regal staircase to a second story, huge windows, beautiful trim work, and wooden floors – all surrounded outside by graceful, massive oak trees, huge camellias, ivy and lawn. Best of all, the rent was affordable! Still struggling to build the practice, there were times the partners didn’t take home a paycheck, but they always made sure I got one!
If you had to choose one, what was the most memorable moment of your career?
A proud career moment was the day when I reached my 25th year with DPR. There was a write up in the paper that made me very proud.
Do you have another favorite story you want to share about DPR, Lee or TD?
Another memorable story was when bank representatives came to the office to get a feel for our growing business while considering a construction loan application we had made. At the time, DPR was preparing to move to and renovate a new office, hire more staff and expand its services to include Civil Engineering, in the early 80s. Acting as hostess, I took the loan officer and bank manager from room to room showing them drawings, draftsmen hard at work and the Principal’s offices. As I opened the door to our backup conference room, there was my boss Lee sleeping on top of the conference table with a roll of paper towels under his head! The look on my face must have been priceless, as I quickly exclaimed “he works a lot of overtime!” The bankers burst out laughing and we got our loan!
Thank you so much for sharing the amazing and loving memories. Is this ok for us to include some of your pictures through the years (from DPR archives) in this blog?
Certainly. It’s been more than 40 yrs, so please be easy lol…
No worries, 40 yrs or whatnot, you still look Forever-21, and we promise we’ll keep it PG-13 😊.