When he was a fourth-grade student living in Lincolnton, Randy Croxtonâ€™s teacher told him something that would change his life.
Mrs. Brown pointed out he was good at science and math as well as art.
â€œMost people are good at one or the other. Itâ€™s very unusual to be good at both of those,â€ she told him. â€œSo maybe you ought to think about being an architect.â€
Now, 62, Croxton owns his own architecture firm in New York City and has worked on buildings all over the world â€“ from Saudi Arabia to Winston-Salem. He has even done his part to help with the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.
Part of his success can be attributed to his firmâ€™s focus on building environmentally responsible structures.
â€œI donâ€™t think there is a single more challenging aspect of responsibility that our generation has than how we change our way of thinking of built and natural environments and the integration of those in ways that are deeply resourceful,â€ he said.
Croxton decided to do more meaningful work while visiting his friend Rick Ramseur and Ramseurâ€™s mother, Sue. He kept showing them slides, â€œgoing over al these wonderful high-end corporate elaborate projects,â€ and Ramseurâ€™s mother kept â€œasking about the substance and meaning of these spaces.â€
He is now a specialist in architecture and sustainability, which is the reason the New York Port Authority asked him to work on the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.
He was actually on the streets of New York when the Twin Towers fell.
â€œEverybody kind of looked the same way at the same time,â€ he said.
He thought to himself â€œanother accidentâ€ and went up to his office. It was then, he learned one of the towers had been hit by a plane.
He went back to the street and witnessed the second tower falling. He had a number of friends he knew could have just been killed.
â€œSomehow in the middle of something like that, time really collapses, so when the building went down, in my mind they were still in the building,â€ Croxton said.
Luckily, all of his colleagues had been evacuated. Even so, it was a traumatizing thing to happen to his beloved city.
Croxton first came to New York at the age of 13 for a wedding. He went to Radio City Music Hall with his family and watched â€œNorth By Northwest,â€ which included a scene at the United Nations.
He walked out of the â€œmost amazing movieâ€ he had ever seen in his life and went to tour the actual United Nations. The experience was life changing.
â€œI was so taken with New York,â€ he said. â€œI just said, â€˜I donâ€™t know how anyoneâ€™s ever going to pay me enough to live here, but Iâ€™m going to find a way to live in New York.â€™â€
As a senior in high school, he went back to the city with a church group. His friends found it dirty, but Croxton was still in love. He even visited an architecture firm.
After graduating from North Carolina State University, he took a job at very same architecture firm he visited in high school. Later, he successfully opened his own firm.
Heâ€™s recently worked on â€œbrown fieldâ€ projects in New Jersey and Rhode Island. His company has a knack of taking something ugly â€“ like a landfill in Rhode Island and a abandoned strip mall in New Jersey, and turning it into a beautiful, sustainable space.
And while his job takes him all over the United States, he doesnâ€™t forget his hometown. He comes back to Lincolnton every year for his high school reunion, and Krewe, the annual YMCA fundraiser.
by Sarah Grano