Two UO architecture grads named Portland Women of Influence

Melody Emerick and Katherine Schultz

One of them helped redevelop the South Waterfront in Portland and was instrumental in establishing the land use portion of the city’s comprehensive plan; the other worked on the oldest building in Portland as well as the first house in Oregon to get LEED Gold certification.

Both UO alumnae and architects, Katherine Schultz and Melody Emerick, were honored by the Portland Business Journal along with 23 others as this year’s Women of Influence. The luncheon ceremony took place April 20 at the downtown Hilton Hotel with Gov. Kate Brown delivering the welcome message.

Portland Business Journal editor Suzanne Stevens said both women’s contributions to the local community were impressive because each nominee’s civic involvement and professional achievements weighed heavily when deciding the honorees.

“We were impressed with Katherine’s contributions to high-profile commercial real estate projects that are having an impact locally and abroad, including Portland’s South Waterfront neighborhood,” she said. “Melody was a trailblazer in the field of architecture when she started her career and now leads a firm where half of the employees are women.”

She added that Emerick’s firm was named the Portland Business Journal’s 2014 Small Business Company of Year, in large part due to innovative management, spirited leadership and passion for historic preservation.

Schultz’ contributions to high-profile commercial real estate projects are making a difference locally and abroad, including Portland’s South Waterfront neighborhood and a new sustainable development at Green Dragon Lake in China, Stevens said. She also chairs the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission.

Schultz studied business at the UO before transferring to the architecture program. Now director of GBD Architects, she credits her education in both disciplines for providing her with a strong foundation for her career.

“Perhaps most important, (the UO) provided me with leadership tools that enabled me to rise to be the first woman at GBD Architects to be a director responsible for running the firm as well as the chair of the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission,” she said. 

Driven toward complex projects that encompass a range of scale, use and sustainable technologies, Schultz specializes in mixed-use housing, planning and urban development. She has been responsible for the design of more than 2,600 living units, totaling more than 4 million square feet within buildings ranging from six to 30 stories.

Emerick said the UO taught her to look at design and architecture through many lenses — the community, the environment and the individual.

“There were so many talented people in the program that I was constantly inspired and at times intimidated, but I have always trusted that I also have a voice that I wanted to bring to the architecture community,” she said. 

It was that confidence that in 2000 drove her to establish her own firm “with three main goals: to create great places, improve the community and have fun,” she said. “Every project has to go through those three lenses.”

Now, as the mother of a daughter currently in the architecture program at UO, the Women of Influence Award has made Emerick very proud. “I think anybody who works hard at something is always thinking they could be better. I never think about a recognition like this,” she said. “I am truly honored.”

By Laurie Notaro, University Communications