News & Insights

Get To Know Our Team: Larry Payne

President and CEO, Larry Payne

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Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in the North Hills of Pittsburgh and went through the North Allegheny School District. During my years at NA, I participated in track (hurdles) and also wrestled for five years, and was coached by Leonard “Gus” DeAugustino.  Coach DeAugustino was a member of the 1952 Olympic Team and had a tremendous work ethic both on and off the mat.  Some of the first paying jobs I had were landscaping, garage janitor at a local car dealership, and lifeguarding at North Allegheny High School and Wildwood Pool.

I attended Penn State University and also continued to wrestle in intramurals.  As a student, I started interning at WTW in 1986 through a program Penn State offered at that time and continued interning during summers and holidays until graduating in 1989 with a Bachelor of Architecture.  I then joined the professional staff at WTW full-time on June 1, 1989.  I met my future wife Jill when she started at WTW on June 26, 1989, as an Interior Designer.  I knew I would marry her that day but always joke that it took her a few years to figure that out.
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Penn State, Center for Immersive Experiences


Since joining WTW’s professional staff, I’ve worked my way up through the firm and took over the position of President & CEO in 2021.  Also, as of this year, Jill and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary and I look forward to another summer of hiking, biking, and evenings around our fire pit.


What led you to pursue architecture?

At a very young age, I remember my family going into the city a lot and I always loved watching the weekly progress of construction projects in town.  I was always very curious as to how stuff worked, how to fix things, and how things got designed and built. Or maybe what influenced me was that I watched too many Brady Bunch and Mr. Ed episodes.
 
In 5th grade, my art teacher recommended I take weekend art classes at the Carnegie Museum, which I did for about four years.  Every Saturday before the museum opened, a group of us would get to spend three hours wandering through the museum with instructors to sketch, paint, and model various exhibits.  Coincidentally, our art studio at that time was in the gallery space on the upper level of the Hall of Architecture.
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The University of Texas at Austin, Student Activity Center


I also attended A.W. Beattie Technical School for architectural drafting.  My instructor always encouraged the class to explore the creative side of architecture by going on field trips to notable local buildings and undertaking sketching, model building, and painting assignments.
 

What are some of the challenges that come along with being an architect/principal?

After so many years of managing projects, coming to the realization that I couldn’t do everything myself, and that I needed to trust the team and the “system” came with a certain level of anxiety at times.  Now I am more comfortable delegating work when needed and continually work to mentor staff whenever possible.
 

What are your hobbies and passions outside of work?

Basically, anything that gets me outside and/or active i.e. yardwork/landscaping, hiking, biking, jogging, obstacle course events, weightlifting, and mountain biking.  I also enjoy maintaining a pond we built in 2000, cooking with Jill, relaxing around our fire pit in the evenings, movies, photography, and all genres of music.  Collecting music and making playlists also supported my prior side profession as a DJ for over 30 years.
 

What advice would you give to aspiring architects?

Get registered as soon as possible and invite opportunities to tackle different aspects of the profession to become a well-rounded Architect.
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Thomas Jefferson High School

What is your favorite or most unique project you have worked on?

First and foremost, I’ve enjoyed working on every project throughout my career because each one provided unique design challenges to address. Working at WTW has afforded me the opportunity to work on many types of projects and the variety always keeping things new and interesting, is what I truly enjoy.

That being said, one very memorable project would be the Penn State HUB/Robeson Addition and Renovation that opened in 1999.  I worked on the HUB/Robeson Renovation starting in schematic design, and it was the first project where I managed the construction administration phase.  I formed relationships with contractors that I still have today.
 
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Penn State, HUB Robeson Center


Another memorable project for me was the renovations to Sharon & Lecture Halls at Penn State Shenango.  This Project was the first design/build project I worked on and I really enjoyed working with the contractor as an integral part of the team.  I’ve worked on numerous design/build projects since then and have always really enjoyed collaborating with contractors during the design and construction phases.
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Penn State Shenango – Sharon & Lecture Halls


And although technically multiple Projects, I think my favorite combined Project would have to be working with the Penn State University Libraries and Office of the Physical Plant on multiple phased renovation and infill projects spanning three different Deans and 10+ years at the Pattee Library and Paterno Library.  Via multiple feasibility studies, we successfully implemented six construction projects that helped the Pattee Library and Paterno Library maintain their status as the “academic heart” of the University Park.  I make it a point to stop at Pattee and Paterno whenever I’m at University Park just to observe how that spaces are used by students to transform information into knowledge.
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PSU Pattee Library

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Tombros & McWhirter Knowledge Commons at Pattee Library