On Sunday, August 7, 2016 the office that I founded in September of 1981 with Garth Rockcastle and Tom Meyer gave me a wonderful party. I am reluctant to call it a retirement party since I will, in a very small way, still be connected to the office through the Board of Directors. However, my involvement will be minimal. It was a great event. Below is the text of what I said at the conclusion of the celebration.

35 words per year X 35 years = 1,225 words
by Jeffrey Scherer August 7, 2016

Since 1981 about 500 folks have worked at MSR:

  • smart ones and those on their way to becoming smart
  • aggressive, passive aggressive and mellow
  • extroverts and introverts
  • fast learners and slow steady learners
  • Talented and those discovering and unlocking their talents
  • Happy and melancholy
  • Accepting and judgmental
  • Anal retentive and loose
  • Gregarious and loners

You name it, we have had nearly every personalty type. We have always cared for every type. We created a nurturing work place where people can succeed within their own limits yet expand as human beings. Some of you know me through decades and years of working together, friendships and family; others of you don’t know me at all; some only know what they have observed from a distance or even through here say. Some of you may even have made things up about me. But one thing is for certain: at one point in these past 35 years I have fit into most of these categories in one way or another—either intentional or accidentally. I have made mistakes, miscalculations and some blunders. But like all humans, I always tried to learn and grow—always striving to help make MSR Design a better place to create and be yourselves.

Today is of course is both sweet and sad

  • Sweet because my lovely wife and family have joined with me
    Sad because I am saying goodbye to another family: you
  • Sweet because a few special former clients and special friends are here like George and Judy Cary (Herman Miller); Chuck and Jill Koosmann
    Sad because I won’t be able to say goodbye to all of the people who trusted MSR Design with their projects
  • Sweet because former employees like John Cook and Joan Sorrano are here
    Sad because we couldn’t invite all 500 so that I could personally thank them for helping to shape the positive DNA of MSR Design
  • Sweet because many of you brought your families
    Sad that I won’t likely see them grow and become magnificent adults like Garth and Mary’s Chevy and Maura; Tom and Martha’s Henry, Martin and Andrew; and Lea and my Nora, Lauren and Hannah.
  • Sweet because most of the past and current principals are here
    Sad because soon I will no longer be an integral part of this great group of people
  • Sweet because one of our long-time consultants Anders Dahlgren is here
    Sad because we could not bring the many dozen of consultants who have recommended us, provided us with smart guidance and helped us create great buildings.
  • Sweet because Tom and Martha and Garth and Mary and some of their children are here
    Sad because the ties that bound us for 35 years will slowly loosen and slip away through time and distance

My personal family mainly knows the MSR family through me. They know how many times they did not come first. They know that many times I chose my MSR Design Design family over them. They endured absence and neglect—especially with the children in their youth and for the past 27 years my lovely wife, Lea. To each of them—Hannah, Nora, Lauren and Lea—I stand before everyone today and say thank you for accepting me for who I am and trusting that my mission had some bigger purpose. Lea especially, and I wanted to me to also thank the mother of our kids, Elise Howell, for her part in this journey. She was there from the beginning—the really tough years. Hannah, Nora and Lauren benefited in unique different ways from two outstanding women. Elise and Lea, in their own special ways, helped shape me and MSR Design. And by the way, Nora and Lauren are exactly the same age as MSR Design and Hannah is five years older than I was when we started the firm.

I stand before you today telling you that I love you and will be eternally grateful for your sacrifices. I hope you see that the energy and talent of our wonderful staff, colleagues and MSR Design Family today reflects that all those efforts were about making this the best firm on the planet—I never intended harm to you. Thank you. And folks, please don’t follow use me as a work-life balance role model—go home early.

To Tom, I say thank you for tolerating my bullheadedness and impatience. I know sometimes you may have followed my suggestions only out of curiosity. I remember your puzzlement when I wanted to install a bank of computers and do the first CAD drawings for the MCDA project some 30 years ago; or the look on your face when I bought an Apple Newton; or even as you said the other night “Why do we need a fax machine—won’t stamps be ok.” I was always envious of your ability to be sensible and live a balanced life. You are a steady anchor for all of us. We needed your extraordinary talent; your thoughtfulness; your lack of pretense; your gentleness; your soft gloves an tough questions—and we grateful you are still stirring things up at MSR Design.

To Garth, I say loudly and publicly we would not be who we are today without you. We need your questions; we need your theory; your insatiable lust for knowledge and innovation; your academic bias and, of course, we needed your adjustable triangle to get that 5 degrees just right and ensure there were never any 45 degree angles in our plans. We probably could do with just a bit more punctuality from you.

To both of you I say thank you from the bottom of my heart for joining me 35 years to set this good ship in motion. To Mary, Martha and Lea: thank you for believing in our wild and crazy idea and sticking with us when things were tough. Now it is time for me to focus on the next chapter.


Someone said we begin to die
the minute we’re born.
Death is a part of life.
Who knows why the Creator
thins the herd.
Another old saying says
we must all be prepared
to give up those we love
or die first.

Take time to mourn.
Take time to remember.
Everything happens in cycles.
The pain you feel was once
balanced by someone’s joy
when that baby was born.

The loss you feel today
will be replaced by good
long-lasting memories.
Is there a message here? Yah,
treat others like this is your last day above ground.

—Jim Northrup Fond Du Lac enrollee of the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa

I now say goodbye to you physically.

Lea says that I will not die—but rather one day just spontaneously combust. Until that day arrives I will always hold you, my friends, my clients, my family in my heart. Because each of you, and those who came before you, in some large or small way helped me to become a better person—and we in turn are made better by each other. MSR Design is a blessed place. But don’t strive to keep it the way it is. Strive to keep it fluid and changeable. What you do today will change tomorrow. Do nice things without a trace or wanting to be recognized. Thank you for being who you are and being here today.


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