1948 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"The ABCs of success are ability, breaks, and courage."
Charles Luckman was the only child of immigrant parents. His father came from Germany, and his mother from Yugoslavia. As a nine-year-old, Luckman was tending his newsstand in downtown Kansas City when he noticed the ornate old-world facade of a grand hotel. He was especially entranced with the chandeliers in the lobby. When he learned that the person who designed the lobby was an architect, he knew that's what he wanted to be when he grew up.
Luckman finished high school with highest honors and was named Missouri's outstanding graduate. He was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Missouri, but he declined it because the school did not offer a degree in architecture. Instead, he entered the University of Illinois in Chicago, working his way through as a draftsman for a well-known architectural firm. When he graduated in 1931, however, the Depression had made jobs in his chosen profession scarce. "Men were jumping out of buildings, not building them," he said.
Newly married and in need of a better-paying job, Luckman answered an ad that read, "Need a young man who can draw." Luckman went to work in the advertising department of Colgate, planning to return to architecture when the economy improved. What he didn't realize, however, was his knack for merchandising. By the age of 26, Luckman became national marketing manager for rival Pepsodent, and became president of the company at the age of 33. Two years later, Pepsodent was acquired by Lever, whose parent company was UniLever of London.
Luckman was just 37 when he became president of all Lever Brothers' U. S. companies. Luckman moved the corporate headquarters from Boston to New York, and once again experienced the pleasure of architecture as he worked on the concept and design of the new Lever Building on Park Avenue. Built in the "international style," the Lever Building created a stir. Some pronounced it "the proud proclamation of a new era."
Soon, Luckman left Lever Brothers to found his architectural firm. His company designed Edwards Air Force Base and completed projects for NASA, including Cape Canaveral and the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. The firm specialized in office buildings, medical and sports facilities, hotels, and apartment buildings.* Deceased