May 16, 2012 Graduates of UT Architecture and Interior Design Honored with Alumni Awards

The University of Tennessee Alumni Awards Program has honored Robin Klehr Avia (BSID ’76) with the Alumni Professional Achievement Award and Darris James (BArch ‘99 ) with the Alumni  Promise Award. The program grants only sixteen awards annually to distinguished alumni of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Recipients are nominated by fellow alumni and UT administration, and selected by an awards selection committee of the Alumni Board of Directors. Four recipients are honored in each of the program’s four categories – national prominence, service, promise, and professional achievement.

Robin Klehr Avia, nominated by Dean Scott Poole, is recognized for her international success as an esteemed practitioner and leader in interior design. At Gensler, one of the world’s most prominent architecture and design firms and the leading interior design firm in the United States, Avia is a member of the board of directors, chair of the firm’s executive committee, and the northeast region managing principal.

In her roles at Gensler, Avia oversees the firm’s 400-person New York Office, as well its offices in Boston, Massachusetts, San Jose, Costa Rica, Toronto, Canada, and Sao Paolo, Brazil.

“Robin has exemplified the Volunteer spirit,” said Poole, “through outstanding service to her community, to her profession, and, in particular, through her dedicated service as a board member for a number of educational institutions.”

“Robin has brought significant honor and credit to the University of Tennessee.”

Spanning a 35-year career, Avia has designed award-winning work at scales ranging from 20,000-1,400,000 sq.-ft. This includes her charge of the massive New York Times Headquarters, a project that received a 2008 Design Award of Excellence from the Society of American Registered Architects.

Darris James was nominated to the Alumni Promise Award, which “recognizes alumni 40 years of age or younger who have demonstrated distinctive achievement in a career, civic involvement or both,” by fellow recipient Robin Klehr Avia.

Through his multiple career roles as designer, educator, and project manager, James is presently serving as an adjunct instructor at the New York School of Interior Design, an advisory board member of the Urban Assemby School of Design and Construction, and a senior associate at Gensler, New York.

Promise was foreshadowed in James’s time at UT, Knoxville, through his leadership as president of the college’s Deans Student Advisory Council, role as treasurer of the UT chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students, and position as chair of the, then named, Tennessee Annual Architecture Spring Thing (TAAST), a long-time tradition of the college that hosts varied activities over a week each spring.

James and Avia will formally be honored at the Alumni Board Awards Dinner held this September.

For more information about the Alumni Awards Program, visit here.

C O N T A C T:

Kiki Roeder (865-974-6713,

For more UT news, visit