Kesey Square


This is what Kesey Square may look like.

“I am reading with some alarm the fast pace of decision-making regarding the future of Kesey Square. The renewal of downtown Eugene continues and it seems prudent to take time addressing the long-term use of Kesey Square,” wrote Libby Unthank Tower to Ruiz, Piercy and the council Jan. 5.

Tower is the new chair of the Oregon Arts Commission as well as the former manager for marketing and public relations for the city’s Cultural Services department.

The email continues: “Many of us have returned from the holiday break and Jan. 15 provides a very short window to address ‘alternative expressions of interest’ for this space. And, it appears from the outside that a ‘deal has been in the works’ with the proposed developers for some time.”

Libby Unthank Tower has a distinguished career in advertising, graphic design, marketing, and project management. Her work spans public, private and non-profit sectors. She currently works in graphic design and marketing at Asbury Design in Eugene, Oregon. Previously she was the manager for marketing and public relations for the City of Eugene Cultural Services Division overseeing institutional marketing and public relations for the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Community Events, and the Public Art programs.

Libby has served on numerous boards and commissions throughout her career. These include the Oregon Tourism Commission, the University of Oregon School of Architecture & Allied Arts, and Travel Lane County Board of Directors. From 2007 to 2009, she directed the marketing and media services for Track Town USA and the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials for Track and Field.

Libby earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Oregon in 1977.  She studied abroad at Waseda University in Tokyo, and attended the Yoshida Hanga Academy studying under Japanese Master Artist Toshi Yoshida.

An advocate for the arts, Libby embraces new challenges with leadership and creative problem solving. (Second term expires 12/08/2017)

Architect shaped Pacific Northwest style

DeNorval Unthank Jr. spent the last few weeks of his life the way he’d spent every day since 1952 – immersed in the world of architecture.
Unthank, who died on Nov. 2 from causes related to kidney cancer, spent almost five decades as a professional architect. Although he based his practice in Eugene, the impact of his work shaped the face of architecture at both the state and national levels.
“His architecture was very honest and straightforward,” said Ed Waterbury, an architect who worked with Unthank for 30 years. “He was able to weed out the superfluous and get to the very essence of a building.”
Unimpressed by trends and fads, Unthank focused on basic design and created a long list of buildings that defined his place in architecture.
His vision led to the renovation of an old seed warehouse building in Eugene that became a catalyst for the city’s popular 5th Street Market District. The American Institute of Architects honored his work on the Lane County Courthouse and the former University of Oregon Law School in Eugene, and several buildings on the Central Oregon Community College campus in Bend.
Unthank was born Oct. 27, 1929 to DeNorval Unthank Sr. and Thelma Shipman Unthank. Soon after, the family moved from Unthank’s birthplace of Kansas City, Mo. to the Pacific Northwest. They settled in Portland, where Unthank’s father became one of the city’s first African American physicians and a co-founder of the Portland Urban League. Unthank graduated from Franklin High School in 1946. After two years of undergraduate study at Howard University in Washington D.C., he decided to return to the state he called home. He chose to pursue a degree in architecture at the University of Oregon in Eugene.
It was a decision that would shape his life.
From 1952 to 1955, Unthank worked with Dick Chambers, designing and building houses. Chambers went on to start Chambers Construction Co. in Eugene. Unthank moved on to Wilmsen Endicott Architects. He became a partner with the firm in 1960.
For the next eight years, Unthank designed schools, public buildings and business facilities around the state. More than a handful of his projects were located in the Eugene area, including J.F. Kennedy Junior High School, and Springfield’s Thurston High School.
In 1968, Unthank joined with Otto Poticha and Grant Seder to form the firm of Unthank Seder Poticha Architects. Seventeen years later, the firm name was changed to include Ed Waterbury’s name.
Waterbury was a fresh-faced kid just out of architecture school when he met Unthank in 1969. Waterbury walked away from that meeting thinking how he had just nailed his first architecture job with Unthank’s firm. It was only later that he realized he had found a teacher and mentor whose wisdom and guidance went beyond the mere boards and bricks of a building.
“Most young architects out of school, like myself, don’t know anything,” Waterbury said. “I learned from him not to let the passing fancies of society overwhelm the deep interest of showing architecture for what it is.”
Accepting things for their basic, inherent value was a recurring theme in both Unthank’s life and his life work. As an African-American, he was a rarity in Oregon’s architecture community. When he ran into clients bothered by his race, Unthank borrowed a page from his father’s philosophy.
“The one thing about De was there probably were challenges,” said Unthank’s daughter, Amy. “The way he dealt with them, he didn’t make a big deal out of them.”
Instead, he concentrated on his role as a professional.
“He believed that his role as an architect was to make places for people, not to worry about who they were or what color they were,” Waterbury said.
But Unthank never forgot his heritage. He worked tirelessly for the black community in Portland, joining forces with community leaders and the Urban League of Portland to develop projects in the city’s largely minority northeast neighborhoods.
That work led to the 1960s Albina Housing, the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center in the 1980s and the Mt. Olive Baptist Church, along with numerous low income and assisted living housing projects.
In 1980 Unthank was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a recognition that dovetailed with the more than 20 local and regional design awards he received from that organization.
Unthank augmented his professional design work with his role as an educator. He served as visiting lecturer at the University of Oregon School of Architecture from 1965 to 1972, followed by eight years as an associate professor of architecture at the school.
In 1998, he worked as a sole practitioner, sketching and designing until his death.
When it came time to lay Unthank to rest, his family gathered at the Church of the Resurrection in Eugene, the same building that Unthank had designed decades earlier.
“His architecture,” recalled a colleague, “his architecture and his family were his life,”
Unthank is survived by his wife, Jill Coxon; a son Peter Unthank of Portland; four daughters, Blair Coxon Unthank, Amy Unthank and Libby Tower, all of Eugene, and Melissa Coxson Unthank of Hermiston. Other survivors include two brothers, Tom Unthank and Jim Unthank, both of Portland; and two sisters, Thelma Unthank Brown and Lesley Unthank, both of Portland.
A memorial scholarship fund is planned at the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts. The family also suggests remembrances to the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection’s organ project, the Sacred Heart Medical Center/Peace Health Hospice program or research for kidney cancer.
A celebration will be held Nov. 25. No time has been set for the celebration.

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