a n t o n i o In 1958, architect Vernon Helmke inaugurated a program at San Antonio College to prepare students for careers in architecture. Since offering those first classes in design, graphics, freehand drawing, and construction, SAC’s architectural curriculum has grown in size and reputation. Helmke, who had studied engineering at SAC during 1948-49, returned to the college in 1956 to teach drafting. His mentor, SAC professor George Chasey, urged Helmke to establish the architecture program. Though a full-time member of the faculty, Helmke continued to practice architecture in San Antonio, eventually helping to establish the firm of Roberts Allen and Helmke in 1964. Helmke’s motivation to create the program, he said, was for students who, although they came up short in academic requirements for university studies, could still start their education in architecture. Today, SAC offers two options for architecture students—a two-year associate of arts degree and a two-year program that fulfills the criteria for enrolling as a junior in a university degree program. SAC has written transfer agreements (called “2-plus-2s”) with three of the eight accredited universities in the state— Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and UTSA. Andrew Vernooy, dean of Texas Tech’s College of Architecture, is enthusiastic about SAC’s program: “SAC has worked assiduously over the past 40 years to build a better program,” he said recently, adding, “It is an excellent model for the state.” When SAC students transfer to Tech, he said, “They have all the skills they need.” Vernooy also praised the dedication of the instructors, the support of the local professional community, and the resources that SAC has continued to invest in the program. Richard Armstrong, the program’s coordinator, said 100 freshmen and 50 sophomores typically enroll in SAC to study architecture. On average, he said, 40 sophomores will seek admission at a university to continue toward an architectural degree. In the past 12 years, he said, about 40 percent of SAC students have gone on to complete bachelor degrees in architecture at senior universities around the nation. Perhaps its students are the best measure of the program’s success. William Hensley, AIA, a 17-year veteran architect for the City of San Antonio, credits SAC for sending him off to Texas A&M with most of his junior year require-
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ments met. Christopher Kimm, AIA, head of WestEast Design Group, said SAC made the difference in his life. “The teaching I had early on at SAC was practical and hands on,” said Kimm, a UT-Austin architecture graduate. SAC will celebrate the anniversary with a number of programs, events, and exhibits. The San Antonio College Architecture Education Fund was established in August to provide computer hardware and software, other technology needs and opportunities for student participation in professional organizations. The fund also will provide prizes for the sophomore design competition.
The 50th Anniversary Exhibition timeline, on display at the Moody Learning Center on campus, was unveiled at a reception in January. Tenure-track professor Dwayne Bohuslav is the curator and exhibit organizer. Also in the works is a Friends & Alumni Web site and a companion fundraising event on May 13. An architectural photo contest is part of “Foto Septiembre,” a month-long celebration of photography exhibits in San Antonio. The exhibit, a fundraiser for the Architecture Education Fund, will open Sept. 24 at Speegle Davis: Architecture, 626 Ave. E. J U LIE
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(top) As part of SAC’s celebrations, a timeline exhibit on campus traces significant events since the architectural program’s inception. (above) Professor Michael Connor instructs students Lorena Gomez Farias and Nick Speers.
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Photos courtesy San Antonio College
SAC Program Celebrates Milestone