In 2009-10, after eight years of teaching Professional Practice in the Department of Landscape Architecture, Jerry Soesbe has retired, passing the reins to Assistant Head Carol Emmerling-Dinovo. His enthusiasm for his subject, as well as his earnest desire to give back to the profession and to help usher in the next generation of landscape architects will be greatly missed by the department. While Soesbe emphatically states that, “I loved every aspect of teaching the course, especially engaging with students,…I wanted the ability to fully enjoy retirement…turnover is healthy for the program, as new faculty will bring in fresh ideas.”
Soesbe began his career while working his way through college at a variety of part-time jobs designed to give him a broad spectrum of experience. By the time he graduated from Iowa State University with a B.A. in landscape architecture and urban planning, Soesbe had a considerable amount of “sub-professional experience” on which to draw from. He later continued his education at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management where he received an MBA. While living in the Chicago area, Soesbe obtained his first full-time job with the Lake County Regional Planning Commission working on a county open space plan. Soon afterwards, he became the first director of the Lake County Forest Preserve, a position he held for twenty-four years, wherein he was able to “implement the open space plan while building the agency, almost from scratch.”
In 1991 Soesbe was offered the position of Director of Allerton Park and Retreat Center in Monticello, Illinois. Along with this appointment came a position as adjunct professor in three different departments. It was through his various speaking engagements that he became involved with the campus community, and how he eventually came to become affiliated with the Department of Landscape Architecture.
In 2002, while still serving as Director at Allerton Park, Soesbe began teaching Professional Practice. Soesbe says that “most students have an expectation of a job and [yet] they have had very little exposure to what happens in an office and what happens in the breadth of the profession.” When designing the class, Soesbe “tried to represent every type of practice, with a good mix of male and female practitioners, in Chicago and smaller towns.” Using the ASLA contacts he had made throughout the years, Soesbe tried to bring in different people to the course each year. Speakers discussed a wide range of topics with the students: from the real costs of living, to starting your own firm, to the innumerable decisions students will face once they have graduated.
Asked what advice he would give to graduating students he replies, “[the economy] is cyclical; it will gradually improve. Continue to be positive, don’t give up and don’t stop learning. You may have to make do, but you can weather the bad experiences.” He also cautioned against giving in to the temptation to go anywhere and work anywhere: “work under a licensed landscape architect,” he says, “even if it doesn’t pay well at first, it is so important.”