Rob Winstead: Architect

Rob Winstead
  • Class of: Arch ’91
  • Hometown: Springfield, VA
  • Current City: Charlottesville, VA
  • Current Job: Architect
  • Bodo’s Order: Hummus, tomato and sprouts on an everything bagel

Tell us about your current life.

I’ve been married for 26 years to my high school sweetheart and we have two kids, one at “just graduated from college” age and the other at “just started college” age. We live in Charlottesville about half a mile from the Rotunda, and I love and value that daily connection to UVA. I’m an architect and small business owner with a commitment to green architecture, and our firm has built several of the athletics facilities on Grounds. I serve as the president of the Central Virginia AIA (American Institute of Architects) and I’m also occasionally involved with the UVA School of Architecture.

What’s your UVA story?

I was a military kid, so when college came around I was torn between two military academies. Ultimately, I chose UVA because I wanted to be closer to my girlfriend and because my interest in architecture was bigger than my interest in flight.

Between the School of Architecture, pledging to Delta Sigma Phi fraternity and being a member of the Air Force ROTC, I was pretty busy at UVA. I studied abroad in Italy between my third and fourth years, and that trip helped me decide two things: architecture was the path for me, and my then-girlfriend was the woman I was going to marry. I graduated in 1991, went to work in DC and then went to graduate school a few years later.

What’s a favorite UVA memory?

I have powerful memories from my early frat days—doing fun stuff like chariot races and toga parties. I also took a lot of long, gorgeous drives from Charlottesville to visit my wife at Mary Washington University.

But the memory that stands out the most is attending a festival in Vicenza with some architecture students and faculty. We rented a big boat on the lagoon and drank wine and watched fireworks reflect on the water. It was an amazing bonding experience.

What’s something you learned at UVA that you apply to your life now?

The importance of being kind. I grew up in a friendly Midwestern family, and so my friends at UVA wondered why I was always so nice to everyone all the time—but it really helped me meet new people. I also still hold onto the Honor Code, which was something that drew me to UVA. There’s something so idealistic and utopian about it, and I’ve tried to uphold it ever since graduation.

What makes you say “Wahoowa?”

Definitely athletics success, and achieving that success the right way rather than just winning championships. UVA’s strides toward sustainability also come to mind. I’ve been wanting UVA to make that commitment and seeing those steps is really encouraging.

What does being a UVA alum mean to you?

It’s a commitment to lifelong learning, and a commitment to the foundational values of our country—education is so fundamental to our democracy.

How do you stay connected to UVA and other alumni?

Through my fraternity, I have a lot of lifelong friendships. I’m also connected through the School of Architecture, seeing as my firm hires a lot of students. And of course being a UVA athletics fan helps keep me connected, too. The connection I have to the University feels so timeless; you don’t realize how powerful those four years are at first.

What’s the biggest way that alumni can impact UVA?

I think it comes back to President Ryan’s “good and great” message. It’s important that alumni promote that agenda and help shape what that means. There are so many important problems to be solved in the world, and UVA alumni can help through funding and through connecting.