WEB EXCLUSIVE: Feelin’ fine at 69

Stephanie Smith

Retired engineer pursues dream of architecture

Gary Tisor, 69, freshman architecture major, works on a project he was just assignment a few minutes ago in his studio architecture class in Taylor Hall. Tisor said after every class there is a project assigned, but it only takes him a few hours to comple

Credit: Beth Rankin

Gary Tisor has just begun.  He enrolled in the complex architecture program at Kent State in August. What sets him aside from the other students though, is that Tisor is 69 years old.

“I feel a lot younger than I am,” Tisor said while sitting at a desk on the cluttered fourth floor of Taylor Hall in which he spends most of his time. “I’m not just an old folgy who drives slow and can’t see the traffic lights. I think I’d probably be in my 40s if I didn’t know how old I was.”

Even at five years old, Tisor knew he wanted to study architecture, but his ambitions were delayed because of family complications and other jobs. When his wife passed away in 2002, he packed up and moved to Kent to prepare to apply to the architecture program.

Tisor, who lives in Korb Hall on campus, is enrolled in a first-year architecture studio class, Survey of Architecture History and physics. Even though it’s very intense and time consuming, he enjoys his studio class the most because it provides a more hands on experience.

“The class provides proof so they can see what you can do, not what you say you can do,” he said. “And there’s a drop out rate, but I’ve done drawing work in the past so I know how it is. You don’t think of the time when you’re doing it, you just think of what you’re doing. Your brain has to be able to create these things and everyone can’t do that.”

Tisor, who is a retired engineer, said his experience helps him in architecture and makes the process easier for him. He said after every studio class there is a project assigned, but what takes other students days to complete, only takes him a few hours.

Justin Hilton, assistant professor of architecture, said Tisor is a good student, and it is obvious he has past experience as an engineer.

“Because of his background he asks very poignant questions that are over and above the other students,” Hilton said. “He just wants to make sure he has the greatest quality of information before I leave the class for the day.”

On Tisor’s first day of school at Kent State he said he was more anxious and excited than nervous. He figured some students might act strange at first because of his age, but he said the receptivity was very good, and he gets along well with the students and professors.

Freshman architecture major Seth Roodman said Tisor will take time out of his day to talk about anything, and he really takes an interest in the students.

“He loves everybody and loves life,” Roodman said. “We are all like a family and joke around a lot and have a good time.”

Hilton said Tisor has quite a personality and is easy to like. Even though there is a major difference in age with the other students, he said Tisor has won them over.

“Gary has definitely  had a life of experience, and I think that alone creates a great deal of respect from his peers,” Hilton said.

To be accepted into the school, Tisor met with Conrad McWilliams, who was dean of the School of Architecture at the time. Tisor said he spent months preparing documents to show McWilliams at the interview, but he accepted Tisor right into the program, without even looking at them.

“It’s just full speed ahead now,” Tisor said.  With architecture, there is a creative process where things come into your mind and you just put them on paper. When I am doing something on my own I don’t know what it’s going to look like until I put it down, and then its like ‘Wow there it is.'”

Contact photo editor Stephanie Smith at [email protected].