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Ten Year Plan


There will come a time in your life—if it hasn’t already—that you’ll own a suit worn almost exclusively at funerals. I have one. 

The last time I put it on, there were two programs in the inside pocket—one folded within the other—from the last two funerals I had attended. Jim O’Rourke’s memorial service a few weeks ago has only piled more frosting on an overly rich cake. Too much of that diet will put me in an early grave.

“‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said, ‘to talk of many things: of shoes and ships and sealing wax…'” and of all that is unfinished in my life. I have decided to create a ten-year plan, which, of course, assumes ten more years of life.


Two long, very long, bus rides during the last week afforded some time to ruminate (not always a good thing, in my case) and I’ve identified some goals from the experience. The completion of several long-standing projects has become very important, a bucket list that I must fit beside the normal job of teaching:

  • The North Dakota volume in The Buildings of the United States series is the most pressing task. Steve Martens and I (though mostly Steve) have much work already done from an earlier contract with the Society of Architectural Historians—when corporate funding was more forthcoming. Our new contract anticipates a publication date in early 2013, with several stages of production (field research, writing, editing, maps, etc) at regular intervals until then.

Four other long-term research projects must also be completed for personal reasons; there are intensely interesting to me (perhaps to me alone) and the research files will make little sense to anyone else when I am gone.

  • Tangent Lives is the working title of a manuscript drawn from the history of Episcopal church architecture in Dakota Territory. I’ve been investigating this series of buildings since March 1973 (I know, thirty-eight years may qualify as obsessive-compulsive behavior) and the time has long since come to tie up the loose ends and tell the story.
  • Building the Social Gospel—the flip side of Tangent Lives, because it treats Methodists, rather than Episcopalians—has been shorter by twenty years, but it also cries out for completion. Here, too, I wonder if my files will make any sense to others. Luckily, Nick Lippert has become my Research Assistant and his energy and organizational skills are going to make all the difference.
  • Then there is “The Agincourt Project,” that most intense of my creative efforts. I had hoped to stage a second Agincourt exhibit this October, but the revival of the North Dakota guidebook has pushed that at least a year away.
  • And how can I forget William Halsey Wood, most recent of my many projects. What should become of it?

So much for the academic side of life. The other loose ends are legion and require at least as much attention: my failing health, deteriorating properties and years of fiscal irresponsibility. So in the next week, look for a schedule that will take me to 2020.

As ever, your advice and criticisms are welcome.

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