Phillip L. McDade FCSI, CCS, FASLA, DTM to be Recognized as the 54th Distinguished Member
CSI’s highest honor, the Distinguished Member, is being awarded on November 5th to Phillip L. McDade FCSI, CCS, FASLA, DTM for his accomplishments within the CSI Community. Phil will become the 54th Distinguished Member inducted into this elite group with the first inductee dating back to 1954.
Phil has more than 38 years of involvement with CSI, with a reputation of encouraging others to get involved, working smarter, and always stressing the importance of mentoring others. He earns this prestigious award by demonstrating tremendous support for CSI and the principles of the organization through his leadership, written and oral communications, and personal interaction with other CSI members of all ages. He continually inspires the members to participate at the Chapter, Region, and Institute level and encourages them to use their skills and talents to work toward the betterment of CSI.
Phil truly believes the construction industry is built on relationships. He continues to encourage members to communicate beyond personal preferences and to work with people from every facet of the design and construction industry.
Distinguished services shall be “over and above” that expected of a similar member performing those duties within the organization, and the nominee’s entire body of work, including this distinguished work, is considered when reviewing the nomination. Phil shares with us what it means to become a Distinguished Member.
How did you first hear that you would be recognized as a Distinguished Member, and what was your reaction?
Marvin Kemp woke me up from a nap (I started early that day) on a Friday afternoon and told me of the Board’s decision to elevate me to Distinguished Membership. My reaction – shock combined with some disbelief. I probably asked Marvin more than once if he was kidding me.
Distinguished Membership is considered to be one of the most prestigious honors of the Institute, conferred on individuals who have performed distinguished service to the construction industry. Which of your personal contributions in the field are most meaningful to you, and how do you feel they have benefited the industry?
Tough question as I don’t think there is just one. CSI has afforded many opportunities to stay involved and contribute on several levels. My greatest pleasure comes when I can help others handle difficult problems or aid someone to work smarter in the workplace. Speaking on leadership development would have to be my number one fun thing to do, especially when people are freed to come out of their shells and speak to something they believe in or want to question.
What originally made you want to make a career in the AEC industry?
Early in my studies of Landscape Architecture at Mississippi State University, when I found out what a LA could do and that he could own his own business, that set my primary goal.
How would you describe the arc of your professional growth in the field, and what are your favorite memories?
(1) Having partners with the same goals, we wanted to be a Mississippi landscape architectural firm that was the prime consultant on projects where we’d hire the architects, engineers, and other consultants. We’ve been blessed to participate in some impressive projects over the years, and some have been recognized by the Mississippi Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Mississippi CSI, and Gulf States Region CSI.
(2) To see “plans come together.” I will always remember designing an amphitheater in a park and wanting it to accommodate the disabled – and this was years before ADA laws came into existence. The seating area was to be elevated, and preparing the grading plan probably caused an ulcer or two. On the dedication night of the park, the town had the local high school band playing. My partner and I were on the back row, and I see this mom wheeling her daughter in a wheelchair into the amphitheater and right in front of the stage. I sat on the back row shedding tears as I was so thankful to have had a part in accommodating accessibility for that young girl and her mom.
(3) When you get to the point that your fellow peers/competitors feel comfortable enough to share business issues/problems related to projects and specifications and want your advice.
(4) When your home Chapter designates you as “Director for Life” not because you’re the grumpy old codger that they’re scared to run off, but because when/ if an issue comes up, you can give the history and what happened last time – noting that if you try this again without doing it the same way, I’ll support you.
How has being a member of CSI informed your life and career?
You don’t have enough room for this. First, go back to the goal my partners and I had for our firm. We had a clue of what to do within the Green Industry – landscaping, irrigation, and some “beauty marks” as decks and pools, but we didn’t have a clue on how the Construction Industry worked as a whole. We knew of some trades but had never looked much farther than what we needed when it came to the number, amount, and variations of “trades,” including material suppliers. If it were not for the “teachings” of CSI – a seminar entitled “Coordinating Plans and Specifications, CDT and CCS training (which I passed both at the same time when it was possible to do in the old days), and the numerous friends who offered their help and guidance, well, I probably would not be the person I am today. Other than my faith, family, and friends, CSI has been foundational! THAT IS THE REASON I HAVE STRIVED TO HELP OTHERS IN THIS INDUSTRY!
Who would like to recognize for having a positive impact on your success and longevity?
I’m not even going to try to give you a list! There are sooooo many. I must credit Thomas L. Clarke FCSI and Robert V. M. Harrison FAIA, FCSI along with a bunch more in my Mississippi Chapter; dozens of members and leaders in the Gulf States Region CSI, and numerous friends across the country that I would have never gotten to know without my involvement on the Board of CSI, especially my mentor Robert Molseed FCSI, FAIA, Lifetime Member. Oh yes, there are two folks also in my Chapter that drove/pursued/pestered me to submit for this honor, M. Keith West FCSI, CCPR, and John Dunaway FCSI, CCS, AIA. They get A LOT of the credit for the “longevity” part of my involvement in CSI, and I am indebted to them.
What advice would you give to any CSI members—new or established—on how to continue to have a rewarding professional experience?
Keep yourself willing to learn. Don’t carry around the chip on your shoulder for having received awards or achievements that this is “your Chapter” or “your Region.” Understand you’re just a part, and knowing that, don’t give up looking for opportunities to contribute or help others. Even if it means just simply calling a person up and telling them they’re doing a good job. They’ll realize you took some of your time to help and encourage them.
What do you see as the most significant opportunities in the construction industry in the next 5 to 10 years?
Taking the opportunities of the great advancements of technology WITHOUT diminishing the importance of people. We seem to want all the programs with bells and whistles to educate us and to tell others how things are to be done, sometimes at the point of having no concerns about the individuals or normal practices in their trades. Construction has, and I hope will always continue to be, a business of personal relationships, where one’s word is what counts. If we forget (or don’t learn) how to communicate with one another, then where will be? That’s a horrifying possibility to me.... I fear the younger generation lacks the desire to look someone in the eye and ask questions. They seem to want to do everything via a keyboard or smartphone when there would be much less tension if they had a telephone call or better yet, a face-to-face meeting.
How do you plan to celebrate this honor?
A bottle of a good single malt scotch will be a start! I’m sure there will be opportunities to celebrate this honor with my family and CSI friends.
Any additional thoughts on how being a member of the CSI Community has helped weather the current pandemic and how you and your colleagues continue to support each other?
This is something we’ve never experienced. We’re so educated on new technologies to have face-to-face meetings from our cubicles or offices, yet we’re starved for the social interaction part of life. My Chapter is practicing our social distancing by choosing locations for Chapter meetings and our monthly social time that can spread us out and socially distance us. We’re “adapting,” as I’m sure all of us are.