Milwaukee’s largest architecture firm, Eppstein Uhen Architects, has named its next generation of leaders as Rich Tennessen becomes CEO, Kristin Dufek becomes president and longtime leader Greg Uhen takes a step back into a support role.
That change becomes official in October, and also includes elevating vice president John Chapman in EUA’s Madison office to take greater involvement in the entire firm’s design work.
Through his leadership of EUA, Uhen has become an influential member of the local real estate industry who worked on projects including Discovery World, the master planning for the Fiserv Forum arena district, and on improvements to the Summerfest grounds.
After transitioning the CEO title to Tennessen, the current president, Uhen will remain on the firm’s board and finish his work in ongoing projects with the Milwaukee Bucks, Komatsu Mining Corp.’s new Milwaukee headquarters and the Marriott Tribute Hotel in the 3rd Ward.
“EUA is in my blood,” Uhen said. “I’m going to always be helping EUA grow. Whether I’m an owner or not doesn’t really matter. I’m going to help them any way I can.”
Uhen has led the firm since acquiring it in 1999 from Sam Eppstein and moving it to Milwaukee’s 3rd Ward. The year earlier, Uhen helped recruit Tennessen from Hunzinger Construction Co. to take over his role in business development. The lead-up and planning for this year’s transition started in 2004.
“He was spearheading other things and I was able to run the day-to-day," Tennessen said, "so I really learned a lot through that in terms of how to then go through my transition and bringing Kristin on board."
Kristin Dufek has been with EUA for 19 years, most recently in the role of vice president. She said she will continue serving as an architect on health care projects even after assuming leadership of EUA’s day-to-day management as president. Dufek, who formerly led the firm’s health care studio, has done extensive work for ProHealth Care, for example.
Dufek said she will also dedicate efforts to mentoring and supporting another generation of company leaders.
“I love inspiring others, coaching others and watching them take flight in their careers,” Dufek said.
John Chapman will take over Uhen's responsibilities influencing design across the firm.
Tennessen earlier this year was public about his diagnosis with multiple myeloma cancer, which affects blood cells. He said he is three months out of a novel therapy and as of his latest report the cancer is in complete remission. That helped the firm move ahead with this succession plan.
With more than 200 employees, including its current interns, EUA has the largest workforce of any local architecture firm. That represents significant growth from the recession era of 2010, when the firm had about 90 employees.
Its current workforce includes 30 employees in a Denver office and 34 in Madison. Plans for the future could include more geographic locations, Tennessen said, and further growth.
"We've got a great foundation that we've all built together, and that foundation will serve us well as we look for future growth," he said. "It's all about how do we best serve our clients, how do we provide opportunities for our employees and attract, retain and engage the best people. We're strong believers that we need to grow to be able to do those things, not just for growth's sake itself."
Although once owned solely by Uhen, he started a diversification effort years ago. The firm now has more than 40 shareholders within its workforce.