Preston Geren Jr., architect and engineer, community leader and family patriarch

Posted Friday, Jun. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Services 10 a.m. today at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church Burial: Greenwood Memorial Park

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Just look around. You’ll see some of the legacy of Preston Geren Jr.

An architect and engineer, he joined the firm his father founded here in the 1930s, Preston M. Geren Architects & Engineers, and had a hand in designing Southwest High School, buildings at Travis Avenue and Broadway Baptist churches, and at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, TCU, the University of Texas at Arlington and Texas A&M.

The firm worked with architect Louis Kahn on the iconic Kimbell Art Museum and with scores of Texas school districts to design the buildings that shape children’s lives.

“He particularly loved schools. He loved building schools,” said his son Pete Geren, a former U.S. representative and president of the Sid Richardson Foundation.

And in retirement, he read to students at Fort Worth’s Nash Elementary School.

Mr. Geren died Wednesday. He had been in declining health for some time, family members said. He was 89.

Another legacy is Mr. Geren’s years of community service. He was an organizer and president of Streams & Valleys, and was on the boards of Fort Worth Children’s Hospital, the Museum of Science and History, and numerous other organizations and businesses.

“It was just an honor to be raised by Dad,” said his son Charlie Geren, a state representative and businessman. “He was a great father and very civic minded. He taught us that you need to give back to your community. He led by example.”

Preston Murdoch Geren Jr. was born Dec. 16, 1923, in Fort Worth, the son of Preston M. Geren Sr. and Linda Giesecke Geren.

After graduating from Arlington Heights High School, he attended Texas A&M University until he joined the Army in World War II. For service in the Third Army in Europe, he received a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.

Although he finished college after the war at Georgia Tech, he was forever an Aggie.

“Preston represented Texas A&M's ‘First Family of Architecture,’” Jorge Vanegas, dean of A&M’s School of Architecture, said in a statement. His grandfather, Frederick Giesecke, taught the first architecture class at Texas A&M University in 1905, and his father and an uncle also studied architecture at A&M, Vanegas said.

Mr. Geren was on a number of advisory councils and gave financial support to projects such as the Preston M. Geren Auditorium and the Frederick Giesecke Lecture series, Vanegas said.

“His love of A&M spread to family, friends and colleagues and across the campus landscape,” Vanegas said. “His legacy is unmatched among former students of the college and will always be a living testament to his excellence. His spirit will continue to be with us, inspiring not only current students, but more importantly, the future of Texas A&M architecture.”

Charlie Geren said his dad took him to his first A&M football game when he was a month old. Later, Mr. Geren took all of his grandchildren to Aggie football games and midnight yell practice.

“Preston Geren was an outstanding Aggie, and he stood tall in his support of Texas A&M, just as he did in his chosen profession of architecture. He will be sorely missed by the entire Aggie family,” A&M President R. Bowen Loftin said.

Mr. Geren insisted that all family members attend an annual summer family reunion in New Braunfels on the banks of the Comal River.

“One of his greatest desires was that his grandchildren would remain close,” Pete Geren said. “Attendance was absolutely mandatory. You didn’t miss them.”

Frank H. Sherwood, an architectural engineer who worked with Mr. Geren for about 18 years, said his boss had high expectations for his employees, and they rose to his challenge.

“Preston Geren got more done in a day’s time than any person I’ve ever been around,” Sherwood said. “He never wasted a minute.”

Only once was Mr. Geren known to cheat, Pete Geren said. When he went to sign up for World War II duty, he failed the eye test. He sneaked back into the clinic and memorized the eye chart. The next day, he passed the test and was off to war.

“He was one of the finest citizens ever of the greatest generation,” friend Dee Kelly Sr. said.

Other survivors include Eva Geren Motheral, Chandra Edwards Geren and B.T. “Toby” Erwin III; two sisters, Linda Lee Nichols of Coronado, Calif., and Alma Caroline Key of Clifton; 11 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Diane Smith, 817-390-7675

Twitter: @dianeasmith1

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