Board of Trustees members (from left) Marlee Jacocks, Wayne Estopinal, Chair Rick Hall, Jean Ann Harcourt, Mike McDaniel, Tom Bracken and President Geoffrey Mearns celebrate Estopinal's birthday at a home football game in the fall of 2017. Estopinal was not only active in the university through the Board of Trustees, but was also an active alumnus in the College of Architecture and Alumni Council. Marlee Jacocks, Photo Provided
"He really did enjoy life" – Friends remember Wayne Estopinal
Having a presence and being present.
When friends and colleagues think of Wayne Estopinal, they think of a leader, a man who is committed to his passions and a guy who could tell a great story.
They’ll tell you about an architect who spent countless hours in front of an easel, helping young professionals enhance their designs.
They’ll tell you that he would often clock 80 to 90 hours in a work week, not because he had to, but because he wanted to.
They’ll tell you about his love for Ball State and how he was so convinced of the quality of his education that he spent his life sharing that certainty.
They will say his was an expansive, expressive life.
His life with CAP
“He had a strong belief in excellence and a strong belief that everybody could be excellent,” said Phillip Repp, former dean of the College of Architecture and Planning (CAP), of Estopinal.
Repp first met Estopinal in the early 2000s. As a 1979 graduate from the program, Estopinal was constantly challenging the school to reach its full potential and to maintain that excellence.
Repp said Estopinal would come to all of the career fairs, was always on the lookout for interns and was an advocate for the college’s five-year bachelor’s degree, which was eliminated in 2006, but brought back in the 2018 fall semester thanks in large part to Estopinal.
Repp said Estopinal was committed to cultivating connections between students and the craft, in order to solidify young people’s passion for their shared alma mater and profession.
More than 50 CAP students have interned at TEG Architects, formerly known as the Estopinal Group, founded in 1989. Since its beginnings, 110 Ball State alumni have been employed there.
For many interns, Estopinal served as a lifelong teacher.
“He was a great mentor, and he was preparing us to run this business,” said Kyle Wilson, partner at TEG Architects and a 2001 Ball State graduate. “Maybe he wasn’t preparing us to do [it] this week, but he was preparing for us to transition into ownership and run this business.”
Wilson said Estopinal was prolific in the healthcare architecture and design field, completing more than 50 healthcare master plans and 7,000 healthcare projects throughout his career. In August, Estopinal attained fellowship status at the American College of Healthcare Architects.
Repp said Estopinal’s career reflected his training.
“He totally believed in the university and he totally believed in the education he received at the College of Architecture and Planning,” Repp said.
His love for Ball State
In 2011, Estopinal joined the Ball State Board of Trustees and served as chair of the Academic/Student Affairs Committee and the Alumni Council.
Those who served alongside him on the board remembered Estopinal as compassionate and naturally curious, which sometimes led him to ask hard questions.
“His primary goal was, ‘I want Ball State better than Ball State is,’” said Frank Hancock, former board member.
Hancock said Estopinal came to discussions without an agenda. When Estopinal asked questions, Hancock said, he knew Estopinal was doing it for the betterment of the university. He was candid about his beliefs and not easily swayed, Hancock said. He would push back, even if the rest of the board would challenge him.
“If he was the only one in the group that really truly believed, ‘This is the way we should do it,’ he would hang in there,” Hancock said.
Repp echoed Hancock’s sentiments.
“What was nice about Wayne is that you could have a very heated, pushy conversation about a topic and then when you’re done, you’re best friends,” Repp said. “That’s kind of a rare person.”
Board chair Rick Hall served with Estopinal for eight years. Hall said what defined Estopinal’s service on the board was his commitment to excellence and how that inspired others.
“We’re all going to miss Wayne’s friendship,” Hall said. “He was a brilliant man and we’re blessed he gave so much time and energy to Ball State.”
Marlee Jacocks, student member of the board, worked closely with Estopinal on the Academic/Student Affairs Committee. She said Estopinal was a phenomenal leader and she was happy to have worked with him.
“He was the type of person that always had ideas, always had thoughts on how to make the university better,” Jacocks said. “He really did enjoy life and really did live it to the fullest.”
Laughter and Legacy
While Estopinal was known for his intensity, he also gave plenty of positive energy and maintained a great sense of humor.
“He would tell stories and I will tell you that both of us [Repp and his wife] were just [brought] to tears. He was such a funny man,” Repp said.
Others agreed that Estopinal could always put a smile on your face.
“He was always able to make everyone laugh,” Jacocks said.
Estopinal’s death was noted not only by colleagues, but also the larger community he served.
“My heart breaks for the family and friends of Wayne Estopinal,” said Gov. Eric Holcomb in a statement. “Indiana lost a rare individual who helped build our state, one community and institution at a time.”
That, those closest to him say, is his legacy.
“Obviously it was a shock to lose Wayne so suddenly,” Wilson said. “But we’re prepared … to move ... forward in a way that would make Wayne proud.”
Brooke Kemp and Brynn Mechem contributed to this report.