August 2004

Bonnie Foit-Albert
Major Player in Buffalo's Renaissance

by Joseph H. RADDER

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Beverly ("Bonnie") Foit-Albert grew up in the architectural profession. Her father, Franklin Foit, was a leading local architect, and Bonnie worked in his office summers during high school and college. "I ran prints, worked as a draftsman, and went out on jobs with my father. And those were days when women were seldom seen on a construction site."

This experience plus a wonderful education at Cornell, UB, and Saybrook University, equipped Bonnie Foit-Albert well for the position she holds today, president and CEO of Foit-Albert, leading local architectural engineers and surveyors. "While many architects outsource functions," she said, "we are not a single discipline firm. Except for mechanical and electrical engineering, we do it all here under one roof.

As founder of the firm in 1977, she fondly remembers its beginnings in the basement of her Orchard Park home. Growth has been constant ever since. Today Foit-Albert employs over 100 people in three offices, Buffalo, Albany, and Watertown.
Bonnie is justifiably proud of the firm's many projects, municipal, commercial, and residential. Some of these include the new Family Court Building, the Makowski Early Childhood Center, new student housing on the Amherst UB campus, and the Inner Harbor development. When asked about the public perception that little is happening on the waterfront, Foit-Albert allowed that there had been considerable delay in getting started because of the canal controversy. In addition, she's excited about what's happening in the outer harbor, with the NFTA seeking developers who will put emphasis on green space and public access, and New York State planning a State Park in the Gallagher Beach area.

Bonnie Foit-Albert is indeed a leader in Buffalo's renaissance. She and her associates are vitally interested in historic preservation, in downtown development, and adaptive re-use. And they practice what they preach. Foit-Albert's Buffalo office at 763 Main Street is a dramatic example of adaptive re-use of an old building. They took three store fronts and created a striking contemporary office building.

"It's exciting to be involved in energizing the city," she said. "For example, one of the projects we're involved in is the conversion of the Sidway Building at Main and Goodell Street into upscale apartments."

Beverly Foit was born in Buffalo in 1938. Her father, Franklin Foit, now deceased, was a native of Buffalo as was her mother, Ruth Fix. The Foits had three children, Beverly ("Bonnie"), Phyllis, who is now a nurse in Columbus, Ohio, and Franklin Jr. who teaches at Washington State University.


Bonnie attended elementary school at St. Francis de Sales, and at St. Benedict's in Eggertsville. She started high school at Sacred Heart and then transferred to Amherst Central, graduating in 1956. She earned a bachelor's degree in architecture at Cornell, a master's degree at UB, and a PhD at Saybrook University.

Beverly Foit married James Albert in 1963, and re-married in 1986 to Joseph Cox. Between Bonnie and Joseph, they have six adult children, four with doctorates. Son Jeffrey Albert is an architectural designer in the family firm. Jim is a doctor of veterinary medicine and runs an animal clinic in Amherst called "All Creatures". Richard Albert is a structural geologist in Texas for Exxon-Mobil. Tara Cox Matise teaches genetics at Rutgers University.

"We have six wonderful grandchildren," she said, smiling proudly.

Does she have time for hobbies and recreation? Indeed, Bonnie Foit-Albert and Joseph Cox love to travel to unusual places. "We've been to China, India, and Tibet, and we love Mexico. We have an Indian daughter-in-law and another from Sri Lanka. In Tibet, she took a 35 mile hike around Mt. Kaiulaisch."

Awards and honors are numerous. Those of which she is most proud include two from UB, the Distinguished Alumni Award and the Community Service Award. Foit-Albert's ties with UB are strong. She taught architecture there for 25 years, having retired from that avocation just a few years ago.

In 1995 she was selected by Medaille College as Person of the Year, and she won a national award for excellence in teaching from the American Institute of Architects.

Does she have a personal motto, a philosophy of life? Her top-of-the-head answer was "Serve and enjoy. We're here to make things better than they were."

Bonnie is optimistic about the future of Buffalo/Niagara. "Our educational facilities, our culture, our geography, our history, and our architecture all work together to create a tremendous potential for our future. Do you realize, Buffalo is ranked as the 8th best cultural center in the nation?" she asked, with enthusiasm for her native city bubbling over.

Bonnie Foit-Albert is, without a doubt, a leading creator of a more beautiful Buffalo, a more prosperous Buffalo, a metro area that will keep its youngsters close to home.

Joseph H. Radder, a frequent contributor to Living Prime Time, is author of a new book, Young Jesus, the Missing Years. For more information, phone 1-888-280-7715 or visit www.istbooks.com

 

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