2012 Forty Under 40: Sarah Hempstead

Sarah Hempstead
Where were you, and what were you doing in 1991?
A sophomore at Catholic Central High School in Springfield, Ohio, the daughter of a social worker father and a professor mother and the oldest of four children.

When you graduated from high school, what did you think you wanted to be as an adult?
A great teacher in high school encouraged me to take his drafting class after I ran out of available math courses. His influence led me to consider and apply to both architectural and engineering schools.

Was there an event in the last 20 years that had a great impact on your aspirations and/or career path?
My work with African University in Cameroon has been profoundly impactful in how I think about educational facilities. In an 11-day trip to the project site (a 6.5-square-mile plot of land in the middle of the rainforest), issues of educational accessibility, the impact of technology to create global connectivity and the necessity for “cradle to grave” sustainability manifested themselves in ways unimaginable in the United States. In addition, social justice issues, like gender equality, made me profoundly grateful to live in Indianapolis and even more committed to facilities that allow everyone the opportunity to excel.

Where/what do you want to be 20 years from now?
Helping clients who have extraordinary vision and meaningful goals by designing beautiful buildings that support their mission.



Principal, Schmidt Associates
Age: 38

Sarah Hempstead has been a principal architect in many projects on Indiana campuses. However, none of those required trekking through an African rain forest and figuring out how to build a totally sustainable university with materials on hand.

Hempstead, with Indianapolis-based Schmidt Associates, has done the preliminary design for African University in Tali, Cameroon. The school will offer training in medicine, nursing, engineering and agriculture to an underserved population.

The challenges of the project include its remote location, and extremely hot, wet climate.

“It is impossible to get there with any sort of motorized vehicle,” said Hempstead. “It’s a hike into virgin rain forest.” This means that the building materials will be made or found on site, using power also produced on site.

Hempstead and a team from Schmidt Associates went to Cameroon in December 2010 to scout the site, plot the first phase of construction and interview local architects and engineers. She is hopeful that the first phase will be built in the next 18 months.

Hempstead has been interested in architecture since taking a high school drafting class in Springfield, Ohio.

“I loved it immediately. I was good at art, I was good at math,” she said.

Armed with a five-year professional degree in architecture and environmental design from Ball State University, she headed for Indianapolis, where her career would unfold.

Her projects include creating a vision and master plan for the Marian University campus; designing the master plan for Ivy Tech Community College’s Fall Creek campus; and the renovation of Indiana State University’s Bayh College of Education.

“I love what I do.” she said. “It’s so much fun working with people who are passionate about their own missions.” One thing she underestimated was how much time she would spend in meetings with potential clients, trying to sell them on her firm.

She is also on the board of directors for the Children’s Bureau and the steering committee for Music Crossroads.

She and her husband, Greg Hempstead, also an architect at the firm, have two daughters.•


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