In Memorium | Frederick J. Fernsler, AIA Member Emeritus

AIA Pennsylvania is saddened to share the passing of Frederick J. Fernsler, AIA Member Emeritus, remembered as a “good friend and architect to all.” Fernsler was also a humble public servant devoted to his family and the State College community.

He extended his volunteerism and service to his professional passion, serving on the AIA Pennsylvania Board and as President of his local AIA chapter, AIA Middle Pennsylvania. In 2020, he celebrated 50 years in practice and his work on over 1,000 projects in the Centre County region alone. His support of the chapter is commemorated on the wall of the AIA Pennsylvania office in Harrisburg.

Read on for Fred’s obituary below and visit to leave your remembrance.

Frederick J. Fernsler, 82, of State College, PA, passed away on May 14, 2023, finally succumbing to a blood cancer he had successfully and quietly battled for 12 years. Born October 26, 1940 in Lebanon, PA, Fred was the son of Philip and Helen (Jackson) Fernsler. Fred is survived by his wife, Patti, his three sons, Kurt (Theresa), Gavin (Julie) and Adam (Heather) and seven (7) grandchildren as well as his sister, Mary Ann Wood (Frank).

Fred grew up in Lebanon County, PA, close to many relatives who helped to shape his character in a way that allowed him to live a long life full of service to others and his family. According to family lore, Fred decided at about age 10 that he wanted to be an architect and he realized that dream. Without financial means to attend college, Fred won himself a Navy ROTC academic scholarship to the Pennsylvania State University where he began school in 1958. Notwithstanding frequent trips to the Rathskeller, Fred graduated with a degree in Architecture in 1965 and has been a proud Penn Stater ever since.

While at Penn State, Fred served as Vice President of Theta Delta Chi fraternity, President of the student chapter of the American Institute of Architects, President of the Arts and Architecture Student Council, and served as a Resident Counselor. In addition, Fred completed the United States Navy ROTC program where he served on the silent drill team and was honorably discharged from the United States Navy Reserve.

It was while a graduate student at Penn State that Fred met the love of his life, Patti, who would shortly thereafter become his wife, and with whom he enjoyed almost 56 years of idyllic married life. Soon after Fred and Patti graduated from Penn State and married, they made State College their home where they resided permanently.

Fred was a registered architect in Pennsylvania since 1970 and opened and ran his own architectural firm for almost 50 years. Fred was registered as an architect in 16 states and achieved registration by the National Council of Architectural Board. He served on the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and was the President of the Middle Pennsylvania chapter of the AIA.

Fred designed countless commercial, municipal and institutional projects during his career, including many local projects for student housing, senior housing, banks, shopping centers, office complexes, and even two local firehouses. Fred won many design awards over his career, including in an international design competition for designing a resort hotel complex for King Hassan II of Saudia Arabia in the 1980’s. Perhaps the local project that Fred was proudest of was his role in the design and completion of the Suzanne Pohland Paterno Student Faith Center.

Fred was always active in public service, where he served on the Board of Directors for Foxdale Village Corporation, Mount Nittany Park, Inc., Central Pennsylvania Health Systems Agency, Inc. and The Second Mile. Fred and Patti co-chaired the 1978 and 1982 editions of the Centre Community Hospital Charity Ball and Fred was active in the Pennsylvania Easter Seal Society.

Fred loved helping people and he was well-known for using his time and experience to help anybody who asked. Most of the time nobody knew about those instances except Fred and the recipient – which was just how Fred wanted it. Fred was also a real estate developer and owned and operated student townhouses next to his architectural firm called “Beaver Gardens,” where Fred was known for being a generous landlord and for having an occasional beer with his tenants.

Fred loved sailing, golfing, traveling, and being with friends and family. Later in life Fred and Patti spent winters in Florida near friends, although Fred didn’t like the fact that Florida “was full of old people” and he always seemed to be glad to come home to State College.

Although standing 6′ 7″ inches tall and weighing more than 250 pounds, Fred’s physical stature was overshadowed by his unforgettable personality and mastery of storytelling. Sometimes referred to as the “mayor” of State College, he had hundreds of friends and amazed his family by never forgetting a name. He had an uncanny ability to recall facts important to others and connect with everybody instantly.

He was an incredible husband, father, and friend, and his kindness, advice, and humor will be missed by many. He was truly one of a kind.

The family is planning a memorial gathering in June 2023, with details to follow. In lieu of flowers, etc. the family requests donations in Fred’s name to the Dana Farber Cancer Center at

Published by Centre Daily Times from May 21 to May 22, 2023.