U architecture student honored by USA Today

by Nichol Nelson

Most people remember playing with brightly colored Legos as a child, but for John Cary Jr. the building blocks were more than a toy.
Cary said he has wanted to be an architect “since Legos were invented,” and the realization of his dream landed him a national honor last week.
The energetic architecture senior received an honorable mention in the USA Today College Academic Team, a yearly award given by the paper to encourage academic achievement paired with community involvement.
Almost 1,000 students applied for the 80 awards. The top 20 winners — including mathematical scholars, NASA scientists and accomplished musicians — were featured in a splashy photo spread in Thursday’s USA Today.
Cary, the only recipient from Minnesota, was nominated by Thomas Fisher, dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.
The bespectacled student surveyed architecture schools across the country to learn how they served communities and compiled the information into a report, which motivated Fisher to nominate him for the award.
“He’s very focused and pretty driven, but not in an unpleasant way,” said Fisher.
Cary’s rÇsumÇ boasts 19 major achievements and internships, a number that he casually dismissed.
“That’s nothing,” Cary said. “That’s just part of it.”
Although he’s been heavily involved with his academic goals, he also made time for more social activities during his years at the University.
Cary said New Student Weekend played an important role in his life at the University. He worked his way up from counselor to co-chairman for the freshmen retreat program.
“In terms of social things, I’ve met more people — incredible people — through New Student Weekend,” Cary said.
Despite the competitiveness of the academic award, Cary has maintained perspective.
“I think my greatest achievements happen every day, being able to make connections between things — not getting my name in USA Today,” he said.
Cary said his ultimate career goal is to incorporate design with teaching, but he will first take a position as the national vice president for the American Institute of Architecture Students in Washington, D.C. This year he is president of the Minnesota chapter of the student group for architecture students. Enrollment has tripled under his leadership.