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Those of you that follow the blog will know that 2015 was our fiftieth year in business and after celebrating that year with the blog 50 Years, 50 Buildings, 50 Weeks, we expanded the blog’s theme to include current events and other creative thoughts from me and other writers in the firm. In the process of turning the 2015 blog into a book over the last year, we began to think about the need to celebrate the careers of Frank DiMella and Peter Shaffer. I asked them if they envisioned any particular kind of celebration and after some thought they concluded that the idea of a reunion sounded good to them. A reunion that included as many people who ever worked here that we could find.

Given the fact that over 40% of our staff has been with us for over ten years, our current employee list was a logical first place to start. There were threads of friends who had kept in touch over years and miles and we decided that is how we would first get the word out. Facebook and LinkedIN proved instrumental in finding people whom we had lost track of. Frank, Peter, and Rem had given the firm a strong feeling of family and connectedness. We found people’s positive experience of working at the firm made them receptive to the idea and they in turn reached out to those they knew.  In the middle of this process, we realized that our estimate of about 100 people was way low. Randy had somehow kept almost every phone list since he arrived in 1987 and this proved to be another treasure trove of memories. One colleague had called and asked for the invitation and offered both her married and maiden names. The receptionist quizzed Randy, Diane, and me and we could not place the name. We looked on LinkedIN and saw her picture but still could not place her even though she had been here early in our careers. And then Randy’s phone list showed her as the third person on the list from 1987, so the invitation went out.

In the end, we found and reached out to about 275 of the 350 employees who had worked for the firm since its founding in 1965. What is really remarkable is that almost 200 of those people showed up on December 2nd, 2016 for an evening of dinner, drinks, and reconnecting. People came from as far away as Seattle and Los Angeles, and Amir Mann called from Israel. In addition to nametags, we had colored ribbons for each decade that people attached to their tags to help them find others who were here during the same time.

It was clear by the response to the invitation that the model of partnership that Rem, Frank, and Peter gave us was something special. What also became evident was the awesome responsibility we have carrying it forward. The crowd was a testament to the contributions each partner made to the firm. Coming to work here in 1987 changed the trajectory of my life that was likely headed back to North Carolina after a few years. I know that many in attendance could say the same thing. We are all grateful for the life and design lessons that we learned here.

Rather than me telling you more about it, I think the words from some of those who attended will better capture the spirit of the evening, the legacy created, and the connections sustained. These thoughts, combined with some pictures from that night, will help you understand how special it was.

“I’ll be there! I wouldn’t be doing what I am now without everyone’s support 15 years ago” Diana Timpson

“Thank you so much for the invitation and remembering all that were part of your growth and success. If only all companies were such great places to be.” N. B.

“Besides your talent and professionalism, you both have big warm hearts and you have gathered so many incredible people around you throughout the year. Needless to say after so many years have passed, HDS still ranks #1 as the best place I have ever worked.” J.C.

“Thank you to DiMella Shaffer for setting the quality standard that I have carried with me.” A. T.

“The culture you both created wasa wonderful combination of professionalism, fun, and family. I have yet to find another job where that feeling runs throughout the whole organization.” W.B.

“Thanks for all you have done in creating this ‘place’ – Not just an office to come to work in, but a place to create, share, and laugh.” D.R.

“What I didn’t know was that I had landed amongst a group of some of the most loving, outgoing, outrageously funny, and good hearted people that I would come across in my career.” S.G.

“The opportunity and the fact that you believed in me helped me open my eyes and overcome my self-doubt. You have subtly changed a life.” D.S.

Alongside their large and outstanding body of work, Peter, Frank, and Rem’s real legacy was creating a place that nurtured us and introduced us to each other so that our lives are richer for it. That so many returned for this “remarkable reunion” to honor that legacy makes that emphatically clear.

I can only hope that my own exit will somehow compare.