Benjamin Fields learned very early the value of education as a path to a better, more fulfilling life, and he uses that guide in his work preparing school buildings to best serve students, teachers and families. A project architect for McGranahan in Tacoma, his design work has impacted almost two dozen different schools and districts in western Washington.
At age five, Ben’s father was killed in a small plane accident and two years later, there was a step-father in the family, who he remembers as abusive, so childhood became a struggle to be invisible. The boy saw a path forward for his own life through education by studying hard, then as a tutor in New Zealand after graduating high school, followed by studies at a community college before joining the Job Corps, where he taught adult literacy and GED completion skills.
Through Washington State University, he earned his bachelor and masters of Architecture degrees, then completed his professional licensure requirements in the minimum time allowed. Fields and his wife, Tori, came to Tacoma, where he later served on the city Planning Commission.
“I have seen how education brings people together, and how it can offer people a way into a new life,” he says. The Fields family has also remodeled the basement of their home to incorporate an apartment for hosting single mothers and women in transition.
Professionally and personally, Benjamin Fields exemplifies the admirable traits that mark a member of 2017 “40 Under Forty.”
Line Critchfield is another young person who is passionate about education, as the first in her family to graduate from college. You will find her deeply involved in just about everything schools-connected in the Yelm community, where she is executive director of the local chamber of commerce.
Citizens for Support of Yelm Schools, Dollars for Scholars, Junior Achievement, Yelm Community Education Foundation and many others benefit from her attention and energy.
Her nominator described Line (pronounced “Lynn”) as “brilliant, capable and lovely” while working “tirelessly every day.” He should feel this way, as it was her boyfriend who brought her to the attention of “40 Under Forty” judges. But past 40/40 honoree Michael Grayum, Yelm’s city administrator, is among plenty of others who echo the assessment.
“I’m most proud of the work (that I do) that isn’t seen, fostering great working relationships between businesses, and connecting clients to businesses on a daily basis,” Critchfield says.
“I wish I had known earlier that I have the ability to fight for what I want,” she continues in answering a judging question. “I can say ‘No’ when something doesn’t feel right … a lot of years (were spent) being a people pleaser.”
Come meet Benjamin Fields and Line Critchfield, plus 38 other remarkable members of 2017’s 40 Under Forty cohort at the celebration of their honors on Wednesday, October 11, at Foss Waterway Seaport in downtown Tacoma. It begins with a social hour at 5:30 p.m. and the recognition program will conclude before 8 o’clock. Tickets are available at this link.