This Valedictorian Continues to Excel: Gina Emmanuel FRHS ’97

Posted 11/01/2017

NOTE: Gina Emmanuel joined the Catholic Charities of Tennessee Board of Trust on July 1, 2017.

Gina Emmanuel '97 has been drawing since she could hold a pencil, so it is no surprise that one of her favorite subjects at Father Ryan was art. It's also no surprise that she now uses that skill and passion to follow her dreams as a principal at Centric Architecture in Nashville.

While at Father Ryan, Gina was a top-notch student, excelling at every academic pursuit in her path. In addition to her love for art, she was particularly fond of her science and history classes. Her academic achievements inside and outside the classroom earned her the Most Intelligent superlative her senior year as well as the distinction of being named the Valedictorian of her class.

It wasn't only academics where she excelled. She was a member of numerous clubs at Father Ryan, including S.O.U.L. of Safe Haven, Physics Club and National Honor Society, but it was her time on the Cross Country and Track & Field teams where she really made her mark. Her senior year, Gina made the First-Team All-Metro team and helped her squad capture the region 5AAA crown. During her four years running for Father Ryan, Gina made life-long friends, many of whom she regularly sees today. "I'm so lucky that I met my best friends at Father Ryan as part of the Cross Country team," she said, ‘It is amazing how many of us still hang out today."

Knowing what career path she wanted to follow came naturally - she looked to the subjects she loved: art, science and math, and to her cousin. Growing up she used to watch her architect cousin draw, and she was fascinated by his college homework. "I still remember watching him do his homework, and thinking that is the coolest thing ever. I still think everything he designs is awesome," said Gina. So when deciding what she wanted to do and where to go after Father Ryan, there was only one choice for her: University of Tennessee, Knoxville¬-the only five-year architecture program in Tennessee.

After she graduated with her Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Tennessee, she made the fruitful decision to take an internship at Centric Architecture. It was a wise decision because now, 15 years after her first day as an intern, she is a principal at the firm.

Today, Gina excels in architectural programming, planning and design management with two areas of special interest: community engagement and adaptive reuse.

"I really enjoy going into neighborhoods and talking to people to find out what a specific group wants for their own community and what they want for Nashville," she said. "Working with the planning department to shape communities and make a tangible difference in their lives is huge."

Adaptive reuse-converting old offices and buildings for other uses-is another element she particularly enjoys. Some of the projects she has overseen include the Fatherland Church Adaptive Reuse project that was turned into a restaurant, boutique hotel and office; the Mill Works Adaptive Reuse office development currently in progress; and the Trolley Barns Restoration and Renovation that won a LEED CI Silver and Platinum Certification and where her office is located.

Her work is getting noticed. The Trolley Barns Restoration and Renovation won the 2013 Metro Historical Commission Preservation Award and the 2013 Urban Land Institute Nashville Excellence in Development Award. And that's not all. Gina was named a 2016 CRE Nashville Business Journal Power Leader, a Nashville Emerging Leader and is on the board of many local organizations, including Catholic Charities.

All in all, Gina Emmanuel is going places. She's a principal at an architecture firm she loves, a mom to two kids, and she is making a name for herself in a city she loves. A portion of that can be traced back to her start at Father Ryan. "I felt free to develop my dreams and follow my own direction," she says. "My teachers gave me that freedom. Of course, they would jump in and help you if you needed it, but otherwise, I was given the opportunity to pursue what was best for me."

What was best for Gina is proving to be quite good for Nashville.


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