This story originally appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of Washington University in St. Louis Magazine.
Two events during Raymond Nadaskay's senior year at Hillside High School in New Jersey profoundly impacted the next five decades of his life. He met fellow senior and future wife, Nancy, in chemistry class one day. And during drafting class, the beginnings of his professional life took shape, when his teacher suggested he consider studying architecture — a field that has brought him much success and satisfaction.
As co-founder and principal emeritus of NK Architects in New Jersey, Nadaskay spent his career developing his firm’s reputation as a leader in educational, health-care, corporate, and residential buildings.
"Architecture is so appealing because it allows me to try new things," says Nadaskay. "I can use my creative abilities to come up with wonderful solutions that have never been done or to put a different twist on something that has already been done. Creating better places for people to live, work, and learn has always been exciting to me."
AN ACCOMPLISHED ARCHITECT
After graduating from high school in 1956, Nadaskay entered the Institute of Design and Construction in Brooklyn, New York. "It was there that I discovered this was something I really enjoyed. After completing my studies, I got a job in an architect's office in Newark, and I was thoroughly convinced that this was the profession I wanted to pursue."
Nadaskay learned about Washington University's architecture program from a co-worker, who was an alumnus. He enrolled as an undergraduate in 1958 and relished his education. In addition to being a member of Kappa Alpha, Nadaskay remembers spending many long nights studying and preparing for his future.
The summer before his senior year, Nadaskay worked for Rotwein Blake, a small architectural firm in New Jersey. He returned to the firm as a full-time designer after receiving his bachelor's degree in architecture from the University in 1962. That same year, he and Nancy were married.
Nadaskay wanted to try his hand designing for a larger, international firm, so he moved to New York to work for world-renowned I.M. Pei Associates in 1963. During his two-year tenure, Nadaskay worked on several high-level projects, including the Federal Aviation Agency control towers and the O'Hare Airport tower.
He then returned to New Jersey to work for a mid-size firm, McDowell Goldstein, where he met fellow architect Allen Kopelson. In 1972, the duo ventured out and founded NK Architects.
"We acquired some residential projects and a day-care center, and we began to build a reputation," says Nadaskay. "Then we won a competition for student housing on multiple college campuses in New Jersey, and we skyrocketed to another level. Soon universities began hiring us, and we began doing health-care projects, too."
During this time, Nancy Nadaskay also enjoyed a successful career. After graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in biology, she worked in medical research for Hoffman-LaRoche and Johnson Johnson, helping to develop new drugs. In 1977, she started her own consulting laboratory, which she led for almost 20 years.
Meanwhile, NK Architects branched off into other areas and grew significantly. Nadaskay himself managed projects for such clients as Rutgers University, the New Jersey Department of Military Affairs, East Orange General Hospital, and Caldwell College. In 2001, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Newark Suburban Chapter presented him with the Herman Litwak Award for his achievements. Nadaskay served as a lecturer and panelist for numerous architect organizations and held leadership positions with AIA Newark during his 43-year career.
Today NK Architects boasts about 70 employees in offices in New York City and Morristown, New Jersey. "When we started NK, one of the goals was to have our firm continue to thrive long after we retired. Even though I stepped down three years ago, NK is still growing and moving in a direction we had always envisioned," he says.
A VENUE CHANGE
In addition to managing his firm, Nadaskay worked tirelessly to help preserve New Jersey's historic past — work that continues today. "I don't say that I'm retired. I've simply made a venue change," quips Nadaskay. "Although my education focused on modern and contemporary architecture, over the years I've seen a need to preserve the older architecture we have in this country. I've been active in the historic preservation of my town for about 15 years."
As chairman of the Historic Preservation Committee in Mendham, New Jersey, Nadaskay was instrumental in renovating the Ralston Cider Mill into a working museum. He also helped to refurbish the building of the Visiting Nurse Association of Northern New Jersey (VNANNJ), a nonprofit organization that serves 1,000 patients each day. (Nancy serves as chair of the VNANNJ board of trustees.)
The Nadaskays are making a difference to the Washington University community as well. As Brookings Partners and Fellows of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society, they are steadfast benefactors of the College of Architecture through their planned and annual gifts.
Nadaskay established a gift through his estate plan that will support an endowed scholarship for future generations of students.
Bruce Lindsey, the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Community Collaboration and dean of the College of Architecture and the Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design, says: "Ray and Nancy are helping us attract top scholars who may not otherwise be able to attend the University without such generous scholarship support. These outstanding students will help shape our world by generating meaningful responses to social and environmental challenges."
The Nadaskays' estate gift also will benefit the Raymond Nadaskay Endowment Fund for capital improvements on campus. "I've always been a big believer in having enough resources to adequately take care of buildings," he says. "I also believe in giving talented students the opportunity to succeed, no matter where they come from. I thought those two areas — facilities and scholarships — would benefit young people and the University as a whole."
Nadaskay also gives of his time as a current member and former chair of the North Jersey Regional Cabinet. From 2003 to 2004, he was a key member of the North Jersey Regional Campaign Committee, which successfully raised local support for the Campaign for Washington University: A Partnership for the 21st Century.
"It has always meant a lot to me that I graduated from one of the best architecture schools in the country, and it just keeps on getting better," says Nadaskay. "We think the best way to leave a legacy is to give to institutions that will benefit society and mankind at large, and Washington University is definitely one of them."