A Father’s Legacy by Design: Kara Trott, Randy Gebhardt, and Karla Trott

September 18, 2012

Richard Trott loved his alma mater. He studied architecture and graduated from Ohio State in 1961. He passed on his passion for all things Buckeye to his children, who fondly recall how each football season they took turns going with their father to games at the ’Shoe.

“I remember every game my dad and I went to together,” said his daughter, Kara Trott. “Especially vivid are the ones where he got so excited that he’d playfully punch you on the arm.”

Richard was a partner in Trott and Bean Architects Inc., an award-winning design firm in Columbus that was instrumental in creating the Wexner Center for the Arts. Using his renowned entrepreneurial spirit and architectural talents, he made his mark on Columbus and the architectural industry.   

“He was at the peak of his career and was venturing beyond more commercial buildings to exciting, seminal buildings like the Wexner Center and the Columbus Convention Center,” said Kara. “He was full of life and excitement.”

Then, at 48, Richard learned he had colon cancer. Surgery helped for a time, but the disease spread to his liver. He asked Kara, who was in her second year of law school at Ohio State, to help plan his legacy.

“One of his constant wishes was honoring his relationship with Ohio State,” she said. “He had already designated in his will a substantial bequest, but he wanted to establish an endowed professorship to complement his teaching at the School of Architecture.”

The establishment of the Richard W. Trott '61 Distinguished Visiting Professorship was a fitting legacy on many levels. Whether as a client, a member of the firm, or a student in one of his graduate design studios, Richard shared his knowledge, his talent, and his philosophical take on life with humble enthusiasm.

“I have had the privilege of working with many of the Trott visiting professors,” said Karla Trott, Richard’s widow, a two-time Ohio State alumna who teaches at the Knowlton School of Architecture. “This is truly a wonderful thread of continuity and continuance of the numerous gifts he gave to the architecture programs at Ohio State.”

Following his passing in March 1990, Ohio State planted a tree in his memory on the Oval across from the Wexner Center. It’s the same spot where Kara chose to have a picture taken after she graduated from law school.

These days, Kara is a successful entrepreneur as founder and chief executive officer of Quantum Health of Columbus. Her husband, Randy Gebhardt, also earned two degrees at Ohio State and serves as president and chief operating officer of the company. With Karla, they collectively carry on Richard’s legacy through the professorship and as members of the President’s Club. Kara has also assumed a role on the President’s Club Advisory Board.

Although she and her husband each have great memories of Ohio State through their years on campus, Kara said the emotional connection to campus through her father is the most intense. “I can still hear my father’s voice by listening to the audio tape recording of the tour of the Wexner Center opening,” she said. “Whenever I’m at Ohio State, I feel my father’s spirit and his love of the university.”

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