State and national architecture leader with projects in Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas has died

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 15,273 views 

Michael LeJong, a leader in the state and national architecture industry, has died. He was 49. His high profile work includes the $55 million Windgate Studio and Design Center at the University of Arkansas, and he was recently elected president of the Arkansas State Board of Architects, Landscape Architects and Interior Designers.

Some of his other recent work includes renovation at Fort Smith’s Northside High School, The Future School of Fort Smith, and the Van Buren Center for Arts Education expansion in downtown Van Buren.

He was the principal-in-charge of construction and chief financial officer for Fort Smith-based MAHG Architecture, and has practiced architecture with the firm since 1999. He is a 1996 graduate of the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture and a 1990 Greenwood High School graduate.

While attending the UA architecture school, LeJong studied at the University of Arkansas Rome Center in Italy and was in the founding studio of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center. Lejong was recognized in 2019 by the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design as a John G. Williams Fellow. He also served as a member on the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design Dean’s Circle.

In 2020 he served as chair of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Small Firm Exchange, small firms represent nearly 75% of all U.S. architecture firms. Also in he was 2020 selected to the AIA National Leadership Academy, a three-year focused leadership program. He was serving as a strategic councilor for the Gulf States Region (Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee) for the AIA – just one of 19 members elected out of nearly 100,000 members.

Michael LeJong

In November 2016, Lejong was presented with the Dick Savage Memorial Award by the Arkansas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The award is presented for notable and significant contributions to AIA and the architecture profession through outstanding leadership, service and commitment.

Lejong has also presented programs on “Focused Leadership” during the 2018 AIA National Conference in New York and 2019 AIA National Conference in Las Vegas. During the 2020 Conference in Los Angeles, he was scheduled to be guest speaker for the AIA’s Committee on the Environment plus host an open forum for the AIA Small Firm Exchange. The events were postponed to the 2021 Conference.

In a February 2021 press release about his architecture industry leadership work, LeJong said the work is focused on giving back to communities and individuals.

“I believe that all of the experiences I have gained through AIA; locally, statewide, regionally and nationally, have carried forward to represent my profession and my community. AIA has given me the skills and knowledge necessary to become a better leader, and more importantly it has provided opportunities to give back in ways that are continually utilizing my education and talents,” LeJong wrote.

LeJong was battling COVID-19. He is immediately survived by wife Katie, and daughters Emerson and Abbey. He was also a sports fan often seen at Razorback baseball, basketball and football games.

Talk Business & Politics will post the formal obituary when it is available.