Ann McGauran

Ann McGauran poses with the ironwork for the cupola on top of the Capitol during the recent restoration.

Ann McGauran, please tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Moab, Utah. We moved to Minneapolis before my second birthday, and then to Largo, Florida, when I was 7 years old. My father was an aerospace engineer. I live in the Sylvan Park neighborhood in a house built in 1896. I currently serve as the Tennessee State Architect.

Family? Married? Children?

My husband, Mick McGauran, and I will have been married 30 years next year and we have two boys, Sean (20) and Liam (17). Mick is originally from Dublin, Ireland, and we both come from large Catholic families, so family is very important.

Where did you graduate high school? College? Degree?

I graduated from Clearwater Central Catholic High School and received my architecture degree from Auburn University and a master’s in business from Vanderbilt.

What brought you to the Nashville area?

I was recruited by Gresham Smith and Partners (now GSP), an architecture and engineering firm. Mick and I fell in love with the city and state.

Tell us about your childhood … did you love math?

My high school guidance counselor was the first person to mention architecture, because I loved art and had excelled at history, geometry and physics. I like math, but art was my touchstone. I didn’t know there was a state architect. There was an opening and I applied for the job because I thought it would be interesting. The first time I applied, I wasn’t selected, but when the position came open a second time. I knew that I would have to sell my skills if I wanted the job, which is exactly what I did in over a dozen interviews with members of the State Building Commission and various other stakeholders over the course of a week before being appointed at the State Building Commission meeting.

The road to this profession seems to have had some “light bulb” moments.

When I reflect back, there were a number of pivotal times when I had to make a choice and those decisions all contributed to me being prepared for the next step.

You have 25 years of experience as an architect, you were unanimously appointed and the first woman in this position since it was established in the 1950s.

I feel blessed to have had such an amazing variety of professional experiences and challenges throughout my career. There have been so many people who offered just the right support, advice, or opportunity at just the right moment.

Let’s talk about your real estate expertise on capital projects and transactions affecting Tennessee’s 94 million square feet and 900,000-acre portfolio. What does this involve?

A lot of paperwork! The State Building Commission and its executive subcommittee each meet monthly to approve capital projects, leases, real estate transactions, designer selections, and a variety of other statutory responsibilities. My office reviews and signs every designer agreement and construction contract for work over $100,000 in total project cost, and I review the design of every new building. This past year the Governor proposed, and the Legislature passed, the largest capital budget in the history of the state. There is quite a bit of review work to make sure the members and their staff have the information they need to understand and ultimately approve items.

Going back a bit, as the first female architect hired by Vanderbilt have you championed the hiring of other females there?

Yes, this is something I’m particularly proud of. Although I had worked with some of them before, the three female architects whom I had the pleasure of collaborating with in the office of Space and Facilities Planning continue to be some of my best friends.

Tell us about your role at STREAM as Executive Director?

That job was a great introduction to State Government and all the amazing people who serve the citizens of Tennessee through their roles. I have a tendency to take on roles outside of the expected and my time with STREAM was a classic example.

Your life journey seems to have taken several twists and turns. How do you stay grounded?

Everything in life is better when you have someone you can lean on who will also push you. I got extra lucky when Mick and I chose to be that person for each other.

You were a Tennessee Achieves mentor?

I just think it’s important to invest in people. So many leaders helped me, and being a TN Achieves mentor is just one way I can pay that forward. I want them to be prepared to live their best lives and make great choices.

What makes you tick?

My “why” is all about making things easier. I became an architect to design buildings better so living and working in them would be easier. I want to demystify government and the many processes so that folks on the front lines can have the tools they need to serve the citizens of Tennessee.

You have tons of accolades for community projects. What stands out?

The new Our Kids Center on Hayes Street will always be a special project because it was the very first service project where I realized that using my professional talents in a volunteer capacity could create a lasting impact for the community.

Are you involved in any local organizations?

My current favorite organization is AEC Power Women. It’s an amazing organization of woman leaders that provides connection to women in the fields of architecture, engineering and construction.

What are your career highlights and biggest career accomplishments?

I am very proud to have been part of the team that made Vanderbilt Health at 100 Oaks a reality.

What are your favorite things about Nashville?

Fall, winter and spring. Growing up in Florida, I love the seasons.

If you could spend an evening with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?

My mother-in-law passed away from lung cancer before my first child was a year old, and I would love to be able to talk to her about the family stories, what my husband was like as a boy, and get her perspective on our sons. She left us way too soon.

Best piece of advice you’ve given?

Diversity matters and it’s a lot broader than people initially think.

What are your hobbies?

Gardening, cycling, painting, jewelry making, reading

What would surprise us about you?

That I’m actually an introvert.

Movie or book person? Favorite book and movie?

Both, but prefer things with a series. I tend to read every book by an author and I really enjoyed watching the historical series, like Downton Abby, Mrs. America, The Crown, etc.

Do you like to travel? If so, what’s the favorite place you’ve visited?

I would really like to get to Melbourne, Australia, to visit Mick’s sister and brother-in-law. Every time we get something tentatively planned, something comes up. We also need to see family in Ireland.

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