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Norma Merrick Sklarek

The African American Businesswoman that broke barriers and triumph over all obstacles.

A wife, mother, entrepreneur, role model and leader

April 15, 1928 – February 6, 2012

Norma Merrick was born on April 15, 1928 in Harlem, New York. Her parents were from Trinidad. She was the only child of a doctor and seamstress, Norna academic studies were at Hunter college High School she was an exceptional math student there   , Barnard College and Columbia where   she was one of only two women that graduated and received a degree in Achitecture in 1950 from Columbia University School of Architecture. In 1954, she became one of the first female African American to be licensed in the United States as an architect with the American Institute of Architects (AIA). She was the first black woman to earn a license in California, in 1962,

After receiving her degree, Sklarek was unable to find work at an architecture firm, in her own words: “After graduating, she applied for jobs but was turned down 19 times”. “They weren’t hiring women or African Americans, and I didn’t know which it was working against me,” she told the Palisadian-Post in 2004. On her first try, she passed the four-day state licensing exam and, in 1955, was hired at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, a leading architectural and engineering firm. She became the first African-American director of architecture at Gruen and Associates in Los Angeles, CA, in 1966 and spent four decades working for them, and she also worked with the Jon Jerde Partnership. In 1967 Norma and Rolf Sklarek an employee at the Gruen firm as an Architect whom she met fell in love with got married. Rolf Sklarek passed away in 1984.

Norma became the first black woman to be elected Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1980.

In 1980, Norma and her husband moved to Welton Becket. At the firm she was employed as project director for a $50-million domestic passenger terminal at LAX. Terminal it was completed in January 1984, well before the turnaround time that was expected for that summer’s Olympics was to take place there.

In 1985 Norma became a founding partner of Siegel-Sklarek-Diamond, one of the largest all-women architectural firms in the country. She joined the Jerde Partnership in 1989 and retired in 1991.

Norma Merrick Sklarek passed away on Monday, February 6, 2012 at the age of 85 at her home in Pacific Palisades. The cause of her death was heart failure.



Norma designs are:

City Hall in San Bernardino, California; the Fox Plaza in San Francisco; Terminal One at the Los Angeles International Airport and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

1987 The Association of Black Women Entrepreneurs Outstanding Business Role Model Award.

1987 National Council of Architectural Registration Boards Leadership and Assistance as a Master Juror.

2003 Appointment to the California Architects Board by the Governor of California.

2007 A resolution from the California State Legislature honoring her.

I n her honor, Howard University offers the Norma Merrick Sklarek Architectural Scholarship Award. Norma Merrick Sklarek is an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority

Awards created for Norma Legacy:

The Norma Sklarek, FAIA which was created an Achievement Award and confirmed by the AIA California Council Board of Directors… The recipient may be an architect or architecturally-oriented organization. The award is intended to recognize social responsibility. The award arena is purposely flexible so as to remain relevant within any given era.



Hunter College High School

Columbia University School of Architecture

Barnard College


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