Employee Spotlight: Randy Nale

Born and raised in a small steel town near Pittsburgh, Penn., Randy Nale set his sights on Nashville, Tenn., following high school graduation and never looked back. Now a principal, Randy, joined ESa in 1982, and has since managed some of the firm’s largest and most complex master planning, new, and renovation design projects.

Get to know Randy and his career accomplishments, passion for people, taste for bourbon and Bluegrass music, and a peacock named–Petey. Who is Petey you might be wondering? That’s a secret we will reveal at the end of this month’s employee spotlight.

I didn’t choose architecture, architecture chose me.

Randy’s career in architecture began in junior high school via mandatory elective courses. He chose to take a technical drafting class and fell in love with the trade. Randy enjoyed the class so much, from the seventh grade on, he took every drafting class offered. To support his son’s passion and love of drafting, Randy’s father bought him a drafting table, where he would draw home designs–in his free time.

After high school, Randy packed his bags and headed south to Tennessee Tech to study engineering. Although this led to his meeting Nancy, his wife of 43 years, Randy was uninspired by the engineering curriculum and subsequently transferred to Nashville State Technical Institute, changing majors to architectural engineering technology–and his world was good again.

Four decades at ESa.

Randy’s career accomplishments and portfolio are diverse. It includes extensive experience in hospitality, healthcare, commercial/office, education, and performing arts projects. At the beginning of his career, Randy worked on many healthcare projects, later moving on to lead a team focused on tenant buildout in medical office buildings. This had Randy travel across the country, meeting with doctors, (internal medicine, surgeons, cardiologists, etc.,) designing their individual medical practice offices in the MOB’s ESa designed.

Several years later, Randy was asked to be on the team for one of ESa’s legacy projects, the Phase IV Delta addition at Opryland Hotel (now the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center). At the time, Randy had no hospitality experience, but was determined to put his best foot forward and exceed expectations. The project, which included a skylight covered 4 ½ acre atrium, almost 1,000 new guestrooms and over 200,000 square feet of convention space, including a 54,000-square-foot ballroom, is one of ESa’s largest non-healthcare projects ever. Collaborating with principal, Ron Lustig, Randy, and a large team of ESa staff worked on the project for over four years. As construction progressed, Randy moved to a trailer onsite to work full-time, hand in hand with the contractor. Following that, he spent several more years working on hospitality projects like the renovations to the historic Hotel Hershey, the Spa at the Hotel Hershey and Nashville’s downtown Drury Plaza Hotel.

Gaylord Opryland Delta

Fast forward a few more years, an opportunity to be a part of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center team came his way. Again, finding himself without any experience in a facility such as performing arts, he nonetheless dug in with his ESa teammates, successfully completing what would become yet another iconic building in Nashville. This led to putting a few more performing arts projects under his belt such as Charleston South Carolina’s Gaillard Center, and the recently completed Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Belmont University.

Aside from projects, Randy credits ESa’s culture to being an integral reason of his commitment and longevity to the firm. Although he has worked on numerous impressive projects, his favorite part of the firm is working with others, especially the younger employees. Randy enthusiastically shares information and knowledge between himself and the younger staff—not only is he mentoring them, but he is also learning a lot from them, in return. In addition to ESa’s family atmosphere, he appreciates being treated as an individual. Randy explains, when he first started his career at ESa, the leadership looked beyond his degree. It was more about who Randy was as an individual, what his talents were, and then the trust they had in him.

In his current role as principal, Randy’s remains deeply involved in all aspects of a project; searching for opportunities, responding to RFQ’s/RFP’s, negotiating contracts, all the design phases (Concept, Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Documents), including specification writing and the construction contract administration phases of his projects. Randy’s personal design philosophy is that “architecture is functional, livable art.”

Below are some rapid questions to get to know Randy a little bit more:

What inspires you?
Working with the younger people, I enjoy being with them. I like to think I am helping them in some way by telling them some of my experiences, but the other side is what I am learning from them… there is so much that they know, the new technology, new techniques… it’s like, wow!

What are you working on right now?
I’m currently working different projects and with people I have never worked with before – Macy Harvell, Hannah Terry and Kacey Tinnerello to name a few. I’m enjoying getting to know them and hopefully they’re learning, as I’m learning from them too.

Do you have any mentors?
ESa’s four founding fathers, Earl Swensson, Dick Miller, Ray Pratt and Joe Crumpacker. What a tremendous opportunity it was for those of my era to watch and learn from them. They were each gifted in different ways, which all came together and worked so well. Earl was brilliant and such a talented designer. Ray, was the ultimate construction administrator and if there was ever a battle you could always count on Ray to have your back—he would stand in front and take every bullet. Joe was just so calm, steady, intellectual, always thinking before answering. I have been blessed to be able to work and spend so much time with Dick. Calm, steady leadership.

What would you be doing if not your current profession?
I’ve never really thought about a different career – maybe a professional bourbon taster?

Who would you like to meet the most and why?
There are so many people I would love to meet… Frank Lloyd Wright. Historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin.

Must have at your desk?
A box of pre-sharpened red pencils.

Any advice for others?
Be kind, be respectful and never stop learning.

Favorite sports teams?
Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Pittsburgh Steelers

Favorite movie?
A tie – Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl and Rocky (the first one).

First job?
Delivering telephone books!

What would people be surprised to know about you?
I love Bluegrass music! I actually have membership with the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA).

What was your first concert?
My first concert was in high school, Steely Dan and the Beach Boys in Pittsburgh. I grew up in the best of the rock era, one of my favorite concerts being Chicago and the Doobie Brothers at the old Three River Stadium in Pittsburgh–63,000 thousand people and we were on the floor, 50 feet from the stage!

And now, I’ve moved on to Bluegrass music. My most recent concert was at a small, intimate venue in Townsend, TN. It was a husband-and-wife duo, Darin and Brooke Aldridge. It was just like they were singing to us in our living room. Very personable, sit and listen to music and then talk to them after the show.

Do you have any pets?
Petey the peacock! He came with our house, basically. He was in the neighborhood, came over to our house and now visits with us every day. He has even been on national television, NBC’s Sunday Morning with Willie Geist.