Spring 2023 True Blue
By Kim West, ’79
Columbus is a city known for its architecture and public art and people from all over the world come to enjoy our famous buildings. Big name architects have left their mark on our city, including 1957 Columbus High School graduate Jim Paris. His contributions have put a special touch on our community, and on our Alma Mater. Even today, well into retirement, he serves on our Bull Dog Alumni Association Board of Directors and has been inducted into of our Hall of Fame.
His love of sports first led him to play football and basketball for the Bull Dogs. His best sport was football, where he excelled, but he enjoyed basketball too. However, by the time he became a senior, along with a friend on the same athletic path, Coach Stearman felt they had “bulked up” too much as football players. They played football only as seniors.
Academically, Jim had no idea what he wanted to do for a career. He enjoyed any subject that touched upon his creativity. He loved his Math classes and was getting good grades in a subject many find difficult. One of his teachers, Mel Harrison, took notice and knew those combinations would be valuable in a career. He convinced Jim to become a vocational student where he could build upon his strengths. Jim loved his first drafting class and was encouraged to pursue a career as an architect.
In addition to developing a strong interest in drafting, he met a young lady in high school named Sue Roth, a 1958 CHS graduate, and he never forgot about her. Their marriage of 62 years is as strong as ever today. Even though he was first denied admission to college, he persevered and attended the University of Cincinnati. It was fairly close to home and it was there he earned a B.S. in Architecture.
As the young couple began their life together, Jim worked for several architectural firms while Sue navigated politics. He worked with many of the household name architects, including I.M. Pei, yet Jim didn’t seek the limelight. His thirst for creating and leaving a lasting mark on his hometown was more important to him than fame.
People began to take notice, however, and soon his career was busier than he could have imagined. His work with various firms led him to eventually settle and become the Principal Partner of the Paris-Bingham Partnership. He was a sought-after public speaker and became a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin. As a prominent and respected community leader, he began finding himself appointed to various Boards and Commissions and much of the community we enjoy today finds Jim Paris involved with some aspect of its existence.
Jim and Sue started a family and even though extremely busy, becoming a parent was his most important job. His first-born, Keith, attended Purdue and spent much of his career there. He returned to Columbus, now retired, and enjoys life here. Their second child, a daughter (Tamara Estep), immediately stole Jim’s heart when she was born, claiming she looked just like her mother. Tamara retired from Cummins. Jim and Sue have two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and the title of Grandma and Grandpa is one they relish.
Jim has never really retired, although he allowed his various licenses to expire once leaving the profession. He remains busy with his pen and ink drawings and enjoys watercolor painting as well. He continues to create plans for new houses and is amazed at the progress technology has brought to his profession. “It is amazing some of the things that were impossible early in my career have now become mainstream in the industry,” Jim said. While the possibilities are endless, Jim still prefers working with masonry materials like brick and stone. Jim’s designs will withstand a lifetime while the pre-fab buildings that are set up in mere days may not have long life expectancies. Quality and creativity are words most often associated with Jim’s work.
When asked to compare today’s high school students with his 1957 classmates, he has much to say. As a Bull Dog in the late 1950s, things were pretty basic. Sports like football and basketball would completely fill the stands and everyone had their favorite players. Playing in front of large crowds made all the sweat and hard work worth it. “Even though enrollment numbers are up today, Memorial Gym and Andress Field are rarely full. Basketball players perform in a nearly empty gym on game nights,” he said. “Kids and families have so many more choices now. Discretionary dollars are carefully spent, which prevents participation [in multiple sports] due to equipment costs.” Jim’s CHS Class of 1957, through the Heritage Fund, raised money to help families afford the costs associated with extracurricular activities and the fund remains active today.
“Kids today are busier and that distracts from developing camaraderie.” He explained the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ mentality has also impacted competition and working together to earn something. In real life and business, only the competitors get the prize. “When I was in school, we went to basketball games…and after the games, we always had a school dance or sock hop. Today, so many other sports and activities are offered, …and training and game schedules do not allow for many extras in a student’s schedule,” he explained.
Regardless, he believes our teachers have no equal and a school’s main purpose is to educate. “Throughout the years, we have never suffered a lack of quality, professionalism, and enthusiasm with our teachers. They are the true heroes of Columbus North High School and the example they set demonstrates you don’t have to be an athlete to be successful in high school, but you must have an education.”
When asked what he thinks Columbus will look like fifty years from now, he said it depends on our community and industry leaders. “Industry has moved to the south a bit and many foreign firms have been recruited to locate here. Much of the money that drives progress comes from industry. So, the potential exists for Columbus to continue to thrive and add to the architectural wonders we already have.”
In a November 30, 2021 article that appeared in The Republic, Richard McCoy, Executive Director for the Landmark Columbus Foundation said, “Jim’s gift was to read another architect’s style and continue that conversation in a way that fits current times.”
“I don’t know that there was a more significant player in Columbus from the 1980s through the 2000s that cared for and advanced the architectural legacy of Columbus,” McCoy said of Paris.
Today, ironically, his favorite sport isn’t played in front of large crowds. He now enjoys golf – and living on a golf course is a major bonus! One thing is for certain, though: as long as Jim has a pen and ink nearby, he will continue making his contributions to Columbus. He has created a lot of artwork for local residents. If you have a Jim Paris original, cherish it. Some day his work may appear in museums and you can tell your kids the artist was a Bull Dog original!
JAMES K. PARIS, CLASS OF 1957
- University of Cincinnati graduate with BS degree in Architecture.
- Experience with a variety of architectural firms, including Principal Partner of Paris/Bingham Partnership.
- Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin, Continuing Education Series.
- National Award of Excellence-Essex Castings, National Award of Excellence- Columbus Bank & Trust. and Excellence in Development-Metropolitan Development Commission of Indianapolis.
- Buildings of Note: Pump House Senior Center, Fire Station One, and the Cleo Rogers Library Addition.
- Outstanding community service including Rotary Club Officer, Visitor Center Board, Area Planning Commission, Bartholomew County Building Corporation, Board of Zoning Appeals, and City Hall Facilities Committee.
- Known for his artwork, both pen and ink drawings as well as watercolor.