Photo by Matt Douglas
Project Manager, Bates & Associates Architects
Pencil tiptoeing across paper is the dance Joel Thomas knows best. A comic strip crafted by the architect-in-training’s grandfather sparked an artistic obsession for Thomas at a young age, instilling dreams of a career with Disney as a cartoonist. High school gave Thomas the opportunity to expand his creative skill set, as he excelled in drafting and design competitions. Hoping to continue his already-successful technical drawing journey, it only made sense for Thomas to consider colleges with architecture programs.
Drury University’s Hammons School of Architecture was the perfect fit and eventually led to a job as a project manager for Springfield’s award-winning design practice, Bates & Associates Architects. On top of being a self-proclaimed amateur gardener, beer brewer and CrossFit junkie, Thomas takes his honey-do list seriously as the devoted husband of fellow Drury alumna, Amanda Thomas.
In the process of becoming a licensed architect, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP) lives for creating something from nothing. “My passion comes from the joy and sometimes disbelief that a client or potential client gets when you show them the capabilities of your work,” he says. A board member for the Harmony House and Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s Industrial Development Authority, Thomas contributes to a number of charitable and professional organizations in 417-land. His talents will soon be on display in downtown Springfield as he helps transform the historic Vandivort Theatre into the LEED certified Hotel Vandivort. –D.D.
417 Magazine: Why do you think you were nominated to be a 20 Under 30?
Joel Thomas: I believe it’s because I’m involved and have a passion for this city. I try to help out with whatever I can so that Springfield is successful in all the facets of what it has to offer.
417: How did you end up at your current job/profession?
J.T.: I landed in my profession when I realized that I didn’t know one person who was a cartoonist… and that my dream to work at Disney was just that: a dream. I landed at my current job through blind luck. I’ve worked at a few different firms around the Springfield area, but never felt like I was being pushed to my potential. A good friend of mine, offered me a position at Bates & Associates, which during these unknowing financial times is really unheard of. I saw the success that he and his firm have had and decided to jump on board.
417: Where do you find passion to do what you do?
J.T.: My passion comes from the joy and sometimes disbelief that a client, or potential client gets when you show them the capabilities of your work and the possibilities of what their project might become and creating something from nothing.
417: Are you single/married, and do you have any kids?
J.T.: I’ve been happily married to my wife Amanda, for almost 2 years.
417: What are your hobbies (when you’re not working)?
J.T.: I try to stay pretty busy so that my “honey do” list stays short. I’m an active but very amateur gardener. I’m part of a beer brewing crew. And I’m a huge advocate and participant at Crossfit Springfield.
417: Are you involved in any charitable organizations?
J.T.: I’m a member of the Springfield Arts Council and Ozarks Greenways. I’ve helped on the Extreme Home Makeover team through Drury’s Hammons School of Architecture. And I’m currently a board member at the Harmony House.
417: Are you a member of any professional organizations?
J.T.: I’m a board member on the Industrial Development Authority through the Springfield Chamber of Commerce. I sit on the Green Building Task Force through the city of Springfield, and a board member of the US Green Building Council Ozarks Branch. I’m a member of the Neighborhood Association Committee as well as the University Heights Neighborhood Association president. I serve on the Drury Greek alumni board.
417: How would you define the secret to success?
J.T.: When you see success… emulate it, but do it better.
417: What’s your favorite thing about your career?
J.T.: Watching a possibility turn into and idea and evolve into an actual physical thing.
417: What’s your favorite thing about working in 417-land?
J.T.: All the close connections and friendships I discover and keep in this “little/big” town.
417: If you could go back and give the high school version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
J.T.: Call your mom if you’re going to have a late night, otherwise dad will make sure you have a bad morning.
417: What was your “dream job” at age 5?
J.T.: Drawing animated films for Disney.
417: List three traits that define a successful career:
J.T.: Have passion for what you do, have no regrets and take pride in your work.
417: Why are you a 20 Under 30?
J.T.: I believe it’s because I’m involved and have passion for this city. I try to be a part of and help out with whatever I can, so that Springfield is successful in all the facets of what it has to offer.
417: What projects do you have on the horizon at your job that you’re excited about?
J.T.: I’m really excited about the Hotel Vandivort, a renovation of the Vandivort Theatre in downtown Springfield into an upscale hotel.
417: What completed project are you most proud of?
J.T.: Since the joining the booming growth of Bates & Associates, I’ve been a part of the design of our St. Louis office and the expansion of our Springfield office.
417: _____ makes life worth living.
J.T.: The little things.
417: A day at work wouldn’t be complete without _____.
J.T.: A coffee and a laugh.
417: Ten years from now, I hope I’m _____.
J.T.: Not wishing it was 10 years ago.
417: If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would _____.
J.T.: Renovate our house, throw a party and invest the rest… and probably take a few days off.
417: The best part about being a 20 Under 30 is _____.
J.T.: Being recognized for the work/contributions you give.