Higher Education: Get to Know Mary Stills
Written By: Valerie Edgren
Date: November 17, 2021
Mary J. Stills, AIA, CNU-A, is a new member of the Parkhill Board of Directors, a Principal, Project Manager, and Studio Leader in Parkhill’s Higher Education Practice. She is also the location leader in the El Paso office. Her experience is diverse in educational, recreational, ecclesiastical, financial institutions, government, and retail design.
Q: Why did you choose to be an architect?
My decision to become an architect began with influences from my family as I was growing up, mostly from my dad and uncles being involved in the construction industry. I would often hear stories of their projects, and they were always so proud of their work. Many of my favorite construction stories came from my uncle/godfather, who was involved in the construction of the Sun Bowl in El Paso. I’ve always been impressed with the legacy that buildings and structures left in our community, and I knew I wanted to work on the design side. When I got to high school, I won a few architectural design competitions and figured I was on the right track.
Q: Tell us about your honors, awards, or a fascinating experience in your career.
I’ve been blessed to have been involved with several award-winning projects, which include Abilene ISD Johnston Elementary School (TASA/TASB Awards, AIA Abilene Chapter Award of Honor, and El Paso Chapter Honor Award), SISD Pebble Hills High School Phase VI (TASA/TASB Award), EPISD Tom Lea ES (AIA El Paso Chapter Merit Award), and EPCC Culinary Arts Program Spaces (TASA/TASB Caudill Merit Award and AIA El Paso Chapter Honor Award).
Q: What project has given you a passion for your expertise?
It’s challenging to select only one. I have worked on multiple project types and appreciate how different each project can be and should be. Recently I have been involved with a variety of projects, including a parking garage and academic building, a high school, a collection station, waterparks, and a water purification facility, and each couldn’t be more different than the other. Each one comes with specific design challenges; my passion is finding solutions for those challenges.
Q: What are your outside affiliations?
In previous years, I have been a member of the Executive Committee for the AIA El Paso Chapter, working my way up from event coordinator, secretary, treasurer, vice president, president-elect to president. I have also been a member and president of the CASA of El Paso Board of Directors. In 2015, I became a trustee of the El Paso Architectural Foundation (EPAF) and have been president of the board since 2017. The EPAF’s mission is to educate the community regarding the architectural profession and assist in the educational endeavors of El Paso students pursuing their architecture degrees by providing them scholarships, materials, and equipment.
Q: What is something interesting about yourself?
A few years ago, I undertook a “Fixer Upper” home remodel, something that had been on my "bouquet list" — yes, "bouquet," not "bucket" — for a few years. It was a stressful project, and the house was too big to experiment with, but I managed to get it done. I added a magnolia flower to my bouquet. I think Chip and Joanna Gaines would be proud.