Architect Donna Francis has been named among the top Women in Business by the Triangle Business Journal. The 2019 list includes 25 leaders celebrated for their valuable contributions to the community in over a dozen categories. Donna is the sole recipient in the mentorship category.
Donna is a principal at Clark Nexsen who has established a reputation as an exceptional mentor, a visionary educational facility planner, and a trusted advisor to clients throughout North Carolina. In 2018, Donna was named Planner of the Year by the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) North Carolina chapter, an honor given to an individual who has made significant and lasting contributions to the educational facility planning industry.
Her committed mentorship of young architects ensures that regional students will benefit for years to come from designers who care deeply about how a facility impacts the students within.
Additionally, she has led her team through design and construction phases on multiple K-12 projects in the Triangle, including Apex High School, Conn Elementary School (renovation and addition), and E-35 Elementary School, the 15th iteration of Wake County’s elementary school prototype originally designed by Donna’s team in 1995.
Long regarded as a thought leader within the field of education design, Donna served as the project principal on the nationally recognized Hunt Library at NC State University, which Clark Nexsen designed in collaboration with Snohetta. She is a central force in Clark Nexsen’s Raleigh presence who has established the firm as an expert in educational design.
Donna’s leadership is highly regarded by clients and colleagues alike. Sheri Green, ALEP, Wake County Public School System’s Director of Planning & Design (retired 2018), spoke to Donna’s expertise and commitment to mentorship, saying: “Her knowledge, passion, creativity, and diligence have made her an expert in planning and designing innovative learning environments that inspire students and teachers, and support the entire community. Donna’s mentorship, and the example she sets daily, will have a wide ripple effect on K-12 school design for many years to come.”
Julie Leary, an architect on Donna’s team, says of working with and being mentored by Donna: “Donna’s leadership style is part of what makes her a terrific mentor. She never leads top-down, but instead encourages an open environment to collaborate and share in the decision-making process, which is empowering. She has given me chances to grow, supported me when I needed it, and celebrated when things work out well. Her passion for the work she’s doing is contagious!”
The Women in Business honorees were celebrated in a luncheon held March 28, 2019. Recipients were selected from more than 200 nominations in this year’s tribute to outstanding women leaders in the Triangle. TBJ will feature the winners in a special section of the March 29 print issue.