October 24, 2016
Focus: Outstanding women in business

Katie Crockett: A lifelong passion for design

If you asked her parents when she was a kid, they might have told you that Katie Crockett, Vice President for Lamoureux Pagano Associates Architects & Project Managers in Worcester, was going to grow up to be an architect.

"My parents moved around a lot, so they always had these magazines about house plans," Crockett said. "I was fascinated by them, and then my father was an engineer. He set me up with a little drawing board and T-square."

Decades later, here she is serving as vice president of Worcester architectural firm Lamoreux Pagano & Associates Inc., where she's helped lead some of the region's most ambitious construction and renovation projects while becoming a leader in the field – serving as president of both statewide Massachusetts chapter and the regional Central Massachusetts chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

"Katie Crockett is smart, creative and an all-around pleasure to work with. She has a wonderful ability to convey her vision to diverse groups while truly listening to their input," said John Coderre, town administrator for Northborough.

Coming to grips with her passion

The path from play architect to real architect wasn't straightforward. As a teenager, Crockett said, she was put off by the big, impersonal feel of the urban universities that housed the major architecture schools. Instead, she chose the cozy liberal arts environment of Mount Holyoke.

Crockett spent the next decade working at museums, including Old Sturbridge Village and the Worcester Art Museum. It was useful work in a field that she cared about, but something was off.

"It wasn't tapping my passion, and I finally had to come to grips with that when I was almost 30," she said.

So Crockett returned to school, this time at the Boston Architectural Center, and ended up in a work-study program, taking classes at night and working at Lamoreux Pagano during the day. If she was a bit older than some other people entering the profession, she found that her liberal arts background and professional experience gave her a leg up when it came to writing and talking with clients about their needs.

"I had a lot of enthusiasm, and I knew this was what I wanted to do," she said.

Crockett leapt into the firm's work and ended up in the middle of its most significant projects over the decades. One of her favorites was the construction of a cultural center at the Eagle Hill School in Hardwick, which serves children with disabilities.

"It's their signature building on campus," Crockett said. "Those are the things that I love – really unique programs, unique site."

Putting her vision on display

Another iconic building Crockett has worked on is Mechanics Hall in downtown Worcester. Over the years, Lamoreaux Pagano has helped renovate the building, which was built in 1857.

"It's kind of an awesome responsibility to be doing that," she said.

Robert Kennedy, the executive director of Mechanics Hall, said it's easy to spot Crockett's work.

"As you walk into Mechanics Hall, what you see is what Katie's vision was," he said. "She directed the design of the entire promenade section of the hall."

While working on the restoration in the 1990s, Kennedy said, Crockett got to know the building's history and place in the Worcester community. She ended up joining its board of trustees and eventually serving a term as president.

"She just has a real sense of style," he said. "But for us it's as much the passion that she brings to it. She understands the role that the hall and the association have played in the history of Central Massachusetts."

Using sexism as motivation

Crockett said leaders at Lamoreaux Pagano supported her as a developing leader in a male-dominated field. Early on, she said, she had a few unpleasant moments, like when she visited construction sites.

"I would be greeted by catcalls," she said. "It was a really demeaning and really bad experience."

Crockett said things have changed as construction firms have make a point of addressing sexism and harassment. But she said her status as a member of the underrepresented gender in her industry has pushed her to develop her skills and advance in her career.

"I feel a compulsion to do that, to continually develop and kind of try to shine in some respects," she said.

It's helped that she has strong support at home. When Crockett first started her architectural career, she was also starting a new family with her husband. In the years that followed, she became the family's primary earner, while he customized his own career to care for their daughter, who's now 23.

"My feeling about work and families and women is that we have to make family a priority, and we need to look at our culture more openly in terms of who is the primary breadwinner, who is keeping things moving at home, and not be so gender-specific about it," she said. "I am looking forward to that evolving more."

Click through to learn more about the winners

Read about the judges for this year's awards.

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