As an architect, Frank E. Lucas, FAIA, has made an indelible mark on Charleston, South Carolina and the Southeast.
As an alumnus, Lucas is leaving his mark on Clemson University, too, by ensuring that architecture students have opportunities to leave their own imprints on the world.
The longtime supporter of the School of Architecture recently created the Frank Edward Lucas, FAIA, Endowed Scholarship, which will be awarded annually to one undergraduate student in architecture.
The new scholarship has been a generous addition to his longstanding gifts to the School of Architecture, which include another endowed award that recognizes his wife, The Frank E. and Edith D. Lucas Scholarship.
“Young architects need eagerness, ambition and openness while searching for solutions to design projects,” Frank E. Lucas said.
And through his gifts, Lucas wants to make it possible for those aspiring architects to take their first steps at Clemson.
“Over his distinguished career, Frank Lucas has been a major force in architecture across the country, but especially in the Southeast, and a champion for the City of Charleston,” said Kate Schwennsen, director of the Clemson School of Architecture. “His is a powerful story, providing inspiration for our students. We are grateful for his generous support of architecture at Clemson University, and for the student scholarships he has made possible for years to come.”
Building a career
Lucas earned his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Clemson University in 1959.
He married his hometown sweetheart, Edith, in January of his senior year.
Because they had one car, Edith would drop Frank off at Clemson in the wee hours of the morning before she reported to Anderson County Hospital at 6:45 a.m. to start her nursing shift. “This gave Frank plenty of time to complete his schoolwork,” she said. “Consequently, his grades went up!”
Lucas recalled that as an architecture student, he won the design competition at Clemson each year. One year, the prize amounted to $500 – a lot of money at the time. Edith said the prize went a long way for the couple, even making it possible for her to purchase a new dress and shoes to wear to Frank’s graduation ceremony.
After serving in the Army, Lucas founded an architecture firm in Charleston in 1963, and a year later teamed up with his Clemson classmate Sidney Stubbs.
In short order the young architects won a life-changing competition: They were selected to design the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium and Exhibition Hall. When it opened in 1968, the modern structure was a cultural centerpiece and a reflection of Charleston’s ambitions as a city. When the Spoleto Festival was launched in the United States the next decade, the Gaillard Auditorium was its home. The original auditorium stood for 44 years.
For Lucas, the auditorium soon led to other major commissions, including the Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower near Columbia, and advanced what would become a distinguished half-century career in architecture. The firm he began, now known as LS3P, was named the Southeast Design firm of the year in 2014 and is consistently recognized as one of the top 20 U.S. architectural firms by Engineering News-Record and Architectural Record. Today it employs more than 300 people in eight cities.
His numerous contributions to the built environment in the Southeast include the Charleston Water System Building and the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. Lucas is especially proud of his 1975 design work on the Charleston International Airport, which established the firm as a leader in airport design and led to projects in cities such as Charlotte and Columbia.
Indeed, Charleston would not be the city we know without the vision of Lucas and his firm. One prime example is their dramatic rehabilitation and revitalization of Charleston’s iconic City Market.
“From its location to rich history, Charleston is unique,” Lucas said. “It is positioned as one of the world’s most interesting places, which helps define its character. Charleston isn’t just for anybody, but for everybody.”
Accolades and involvement
Frank E. Lucas was elevated to the College of Fellows in the American Institute of Architects in 1983 and served as its chancellor in 2007.
In 1997, he was awarded the AIA South Carolina Medal of Distinction, its highest honor, and was recognized as Architect of the Year by the Charleston Contractor’s Association. A former president of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, Lucas received its prestigious Joseph P. Riley Leadership Award in 1996. In 2016 Lucas was awarded the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the State of South Carolina.
At Clemson University, Lucas received the Alumni Distinguished Service Award from Clemson University in 1992 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in 2007. He has been active in the Clemson Architectural Foundation, has served on the Clemson Board of Visitors and President’s Advisory Council and was inducted into the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities Hall of Fame in 2019.
The Lucases live in Mount Pleasant and are the parents of three daughters, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
As ardent supporters of Clemson, the Lucases are especially proud that one of their grandsons graduated from the University two years ago, while another is a senior studying Construction Science Management in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.
Edith Lucas added that though all three of their daughters attended college elsewhere, “They all love Clemson!”
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