Featured Alumnus: Pete Moriarty

Author: Leah Ryan


Featured Alumnus

Pete Moriarty, BA '70
Vice President, Burt Hill - Stantec

When Philadelphia native Pete Moriarty donned his cap and gown in the spring of 1970, the School of Architecture was a much different place. The Rome Program was just coming into fruition, the School was a division of the College of Engineering, and instead of focusing on traditional and classical design, the curriculum then emphasized structures and the engineering of buildings.

There were a few striking similarities to today, however. Architecture jobs were scarce, forcing Pete to work for three years as a Child Care Coordinator.  At the end of those three years, he was ready for a change; something in him told him to look again for a job in Architecture, his real passion. In 1973, Pete found his place at Burt Hill, a 25-person firm specializing in building K-12 Institutions. 38 years later, he is now Vice President of Burt Hill-Stantec, formerly known as Burt Hill, an over 700-person conglomerate with offices in the U.S., India, and Europe.  When asked how someone joins a firm and stays for the duration, Pete says “it’s a combination of hard work, luck, and a series of wonderful circumstances.” But ultimately, Pete’s a risk taker with a drive for success, as his resume´ makes clear.

After getting his licensure and heading up several projects in Pennsylvania and Florida, Pete opened a Burt Hill office in Pittsburgh in 1980 and was made Principal at that time.  Eight years later, he opened an office in Philadelphia in order to work on a large-scale commercial project, increasing the firm’s size to five offices and several hundred staff.

Pete has been Principal in charge of a myriad of projects ranging from educational institutions to banks to high-rise office buildings to private residences, both in the U.S. and across the globe.  While he credits a walk-in client with interests in India for starting the international growth, it was really Pete’s entrepreneurial spirit and business sense that thrust him, then CEO of the company, and his firm into success internationally, where Pete has had the fortune of working in over 24 countries. Pete saw that although large international firms such as SOM and HOK were winning commissions internationally because of their huge brand recognition, their clients were disappointed to learn that their projects were taken back to the United States to design and then turned back over to the locals to generate Construction Drawings and execute construction.  The result was, Pete says, “a western façade on a third world structure. I was convinced that the only way for us to be successful internationally was to be on the ground with a full service, multi-discipline, cradle-to-grave office.” 

Today, as a response to the recession, as well as the need to remain competitive internationally in an economically-wounded environment, Burt Hill, under Pete’s direction, has recently merged with Stantec, a global full services firm that offers services in design/construction, as well as infrastructure, environmental consulting and engineering. “We grew to be too big to be small, but too small to compete against the really big global companies.”  Now, as VP of the international arm of the company, Pete’s latest goal is to help grow Burt Hill-Stantec’s international work from 2 percent to 20 percent by 2020, a goal that has thrust him into a new exciting phase of his career.

Pete credits much of his career success to his education at the University of Notre Dame and his work ethic to the School of Architecture itself. “A wonderful lesson of a Notre Dame architectural education is that there are many paths it can take in and out of the profession: designer, planners facility managers, technologists, spec writers, industry leaders, visionarys, graphic artists, construction speacialists,developers, craftsmen, artists, lawyers, MBA’s, ….the list is endless,” says Pete. He notes that today’s Notre Dame Architecture student is unique, not only in his or her knowledge of Classical Architecture, but also in the technical and environmental knowledge gained and the understanding that a building should be socially responsible.

While the School of Architecture is quite different today than it was while Pete was a student – he wishes he could have been a student after the change - he points out that many of life’s ups and downs remain the same.  Just as Pete was plagued with a scarcity of jobs in the Architecture profession 40 years ago, many of today’s younger talents are hitting the same wall.  Pete stresses that while a job with a firm of “like-minded” individuals is great, there is nothing wrong with veering in different directions when considering options for work.  He says that you need to “get out of the shadow of your own stereotype.  You can work in any style, at any firm, and once you get that first job under your belt, more will come.”  Pete Moriarty’s fascinating career is proof that this advice is, in fact, quite valid.

In addition to his role at Burt Hill-Stantec,  Pete has been the Chairman of the Sewickley Historic Commission, and a Board Member for the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Civil Light Opera, Sewickley Valley Hospital, Girls Hope, the Old Sewickley Post Office Preservation Commission, and the LEAN Construction Institute.  Pete believes it is important for architects to be involved in the arts and the community. 

www.stantec.com    www.burthill.com

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