MHTN Professional Spotlight: Dale Thomas

Here at MHTN, we strive to make our client's vision a reality. We want to recognize those who make this possible by highlighting our talented team members.

Celebrating his 17th year with MHTN, Dale Thomas brings a passion for learning new things and a knack for construction detailing to the office. We asked him to tell us a little bit about himself.

Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, on the west side. My mom still lives in the home of my youth in Poplar Grove. To me, "Where did I grow up?" is an interesting question. It is more than just, the location of my home. It is "how" I grew up. I grew up with a loving mother and father, two sisters and two brothers. We went to church on Sunday and the other days were spent doing our chores at home and playing near our house. I had great friends that lived a few doors down. There was a good sized park at the end of our street with a little league baseball diamond, tennis courts, playground, a pavilion and a large lawn area for playing some sandlot football or just throwing the Frisbee. My friends and I, all had basketball hoops on the front of our garages. We had plenty of opportunities for activity right outside our door. We also spent a lot of time together as a family, going skiing at Brighton, having picnics up Millcreek Canyon, going on "Park Runs", hunting or just spending time on our front porch. I learned a lot from my Mom and Dad. I don't know where I learned more, whether it is was with my Mom in the kitchen or by her sewing machine or with my Dad out in the garage. I definitely spent a lot of hours in the garage working on various cars that we owned over the years. It wasn't just maintaining and repairing the family cars. It was building and re-building "Hot Rods". When I was 12, my dad bought the car of his dreams, a 1934 Ford 5-window coupe. It was a project car. We worked on that project for the next 15 years. I don't mean to say that it stayed in the garage, unfinished, the entire time. We got a lot of enjoyment from driving it around to Liberty Park, Sugarhouse Park, Murray Park. These were our "Park Runs". We also entered it in many car shows in its various stages. At home was where I first learned how things were built. I didn't matter if it was making a costume from a bolt of material, making a bracket from a few pieces of steel or building a treehouse from scrap lumber from nearby construction projects.

Before

Before

After

After

I went to West High School. I am a Panther. I enjoyed high school, especially football and shop classes. There wasn't enough time in the day to take all of the classes that I would have liked to take. I learned a lot in Art, Welding, Auto Mechanics and Technical Drafting at West. My drafting teacher asked us if we wanted to focus on architectural drafting or engineering. I chose engineering at that time. It wasn't until my LDS mission to Ecuador that I decided to pursue architecture. That is mainly because it was easier to say "architecto" than it was to say "ingeniero" when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I convinced myself that by studying architecture, I could also learn about engineering. After my mission I went to Utah Technical College, now known as Salt Lake Community College. I graduated with an Associates of Applied Science in Architectural Drafting. During my first year of college I worked part time selling car parts at Bradshaw Auto Parts on Pierpont Avenue. The next summer I decided to take a cut in pay and start working in an architectural firm as a drafter. I had an acquaintance whose father was Dean Gustavson. I worked for Gustavson Associates, which later became EFT Architects, for the next 13 years. It didn't take long for my wages to far exceed what I was making at the parts counter.

When did you first know you wanted to work in architecture?

Back in my Metal Shop class, at Jordan Junior High, the instructor said that before we could go into the shop to build something, we first needed to draw the plans on paper for our project. I was so disappointed. I wanted to get in the shop and start building things with sheet metal right away. After drawing things on paper I soon realized the importance of doing things that way. It was certainly easier to make corrections on paper than it was to cut the metal again, or worse yet, to have to start with a new piece of metal. That was my first exposure to technical drafting.

What are you passionate about and how does that intersect with your job?

My wife often says that my passion is life. I am interested in learning and trying new things. From a young age I loved working on old cars with my Dad and my brothers. I still enjoy being able to work on cars. I am in the process of restoring my 1969 Chevelle convertible.

I am passionate about family and working together. I have always enjoyed doing things with my family. We would work out problems together. That ties in with architecture as we are always solving problems as a team. We draw on each other’s strengths and experiences to come up with solutions to the various challenges that arise on each project.

When I was in college I was involved in VICA (Vocational Industrial Clubs of America), now known as SkillsUSA. I competed in the Architectural Drafting competition. At that time the competition, on the State level, was administered by MHT Architects. I was awarded First Place and went on to compete at the National level in Phoenix. I did not medal in Phoenix, but it was a great experience. Years later, after joining MHTN, I learned that people in the office were still responsible for putting the competition together for Utah. I helped Noel Bryant for a few years. After he left, I carried on the tradition for MHTN. The SkillsUSA Utah leaders have complimented me and MHTN for coming up with projects for the students to work on and selecting winners that are prepared to represent Utah at the Nationals. There have been a few National Champions from Utah. I feel that this is one way I can give back to the community through architecture.

What do you most love about your current job?

MHTN has been a good place for me. I enjoy being here and working on many different types of projects. I like being involved with all aspects of architecture, from programming to construction documents to being out in the field overseeing the construction. I enjoy working out the details to be able to make the designs buildable. The best part is being involved on a project from concept to reality. As I work on a small part of the new airport for Salt Lake City, I am reminded that the documents still contain basic details. They are just spread out over a building that is a mile long.

What are some interesting things about you? What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?

I like to think of myself as a well-rounded person. I enjoy doing a lot of things. The thing that I enjoy most is having my wife and kids enjoy the same things I do, like camping and working on projects around the house. I like photography, woodwork, leatherwork and working on old cars. My favorite thing to do is be with my family. I enjoy working on projects around the home with my wife Louise. We laugh that she has learned to re-roof our house, screed concrete and lay ceramic tile with me. I, on the other hand, have learned many things from her from sewing and gardening to designing and helping to decorate birthday cakes. I feel very grateful when any one of my three daughters get excited to work on a particular project with me. Last year, Canela, our oldest daughter, asked me to “help her” build a dining table for her and her husband’s new house. I was elated with the request. I was honored to work alongside her as we cut and planed and shaped these pieces of wood into a fine piece of furniture. When I asked her to draw up the plans she promptly went to Pinterest and printed out 35 pages of pictures, diagrams and instructions. Welcome to the 21st century. We bonded a lot during that project. Stephanie, our youngest daughter, was more than happy to help me put a new engine in one of our 1969 Chevelles. She didn’t mind getting all greasy as we pulled the old engine out and put the new engine in. Candice, our middle daughter, came home from high school one day and asked how we felt about her spending her senior year as an exchange student in Japan. We have always enjoyed seeing our kids dreams turn into reality. Her exchange, through Rotary International, not only changed her life forever, but our entire family also. I am now a member of Rotary and have been involved in the exchange student program in Utah. Stephanie also went on a Rotary exchange to Belgium. We have hosted students from Japan, Belgium, France and Germany. We still consider these kids as part of the family. Recently, Guillaume from Belgium came back to visit us for a few weeks.