History of the Firm

Originally founded in 1963 as a firm that designed a broad range of commercial and residential buildings, our focus changed direction when our founder, Thomas Jaeger, completed his national award-winning design of the St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, which led to a gradual specialization in community-based architecture. Robert Nickola joined the firm in 1976 and Jaeger Nickola & Associates (JNA) was established in 1984. In 2005, David Kuhlman joined JNA and was named a Principal of the firm, offering a broad range of experience in religious, educational, residential and senior living projects. In 2012, David Kuhlman succeeded Robert Nickola as President, and in 2013 Jaeger Nickola Kuhlman & Associates (JNKA)was established as the firm celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Kimberly Kuhlman joined JNKA in 2016 as Vice President after working for multiple architecture firms and serving as a Lieutenant in the Civil Engineer Corps of the U.S. Navy, where she managed construction projects and served as the Officer in Charge of the White Oak Naval Surface Warfare Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, and managed the base’s closure as part of the U.S. Navy’s BRAC program.


Overview of the Firm

JNKA has received numerous design awards over the years but we believe our greatest strength is the collaborative design process we use to guide our clients in defining the wishes, needs, and goals for their facilities, and to create innovative designs that reflect their unique identity and achieve their goals on time and within budget. Our passion for community-based architecture fuels our efforts and commitment to developing strong working relationships and providing our clients with steadfast guidance, utmost professionalism and tireless dedication through each step of the design and construction process.

Meet our Team

David C. Kuhlman, AIA, ALA, NCARB
David C. Kuhlman, AIA, ALA, NCARBPresident & Director of Design

Mr. Kuhlman has been working professionally in the architectural field since 1992. Prior to joining JNKA in 2005, Mr. Kuhlman worked for award-winning architecture firms in Washington, D.C., and in Chicago where he was an Associate Principal at Nagle Hartray Architecture and worked on award-winning senior housing, religious, and educational projects. Mr. Kuhlman’s desire to specialize in religious architecture originated in his year of studies in Rome while a student at the University of Notre Dame, and his respect for traditional architecture and contextualism are integral to his design process. David has spoken about JNKA’s work and sacred architecture at the Traditional Building Conference, The Catholic University of America, on Relevant Radio, and for the Partners for Sacred Places New Dollars/New Partners Training Program. He has also authored a number of articles related to religious architecture and has served on design juries at the University of Notre Dame and Judson University.

Kimberly Z. Kuhlman, Assoc. AIA, LEED Green Associate
Kimberly Z. Kuhlman, Assoc. AIA, LEED Green AssociateVice President

Mrs. Kuhlman previously served as a lieutenant in the Civil Engineer Corps of the U.S. Navy and worked for Thomas Norman Rajkovich Architects and Brehm Architects. She has also served on the City of Park Ridge architectural Appearance Commission since 2004 and was recently awarded Maine Township’s Sgt. Karen Lader Memorial Good Citizen’s Award for her contributions to the Park Ridge community.

Robert M. Nickola, AIA, ALA, NCARB
Robert M. Nickola, AIA, ALA, NCARBConsulting Principal

Mr. Nickola has been a practicing architect since 1980. He has been a member of JNKA since 1976 and became a principal in 1984. During his thirty-two year tenure at JNKA, he has personally been involved in the design and construction of over 180 religious projects, having served as Principal-in-Charge on the vast majority of those projects. His work has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects and by the Association of Licensed Architects for achievement in architectural design. Additionally, he has also served as the liturgical designer on over 40 of those projects, working with the local church attempting to integrate liturgical furniture with the church’s architecture. He has been responsible for obtaining the necessary reviews and approvals of liturgical designs, and has often served in the capacity of liturgical construction manager, obtaining competitive bids from artisans and coordinating the complete liturgical installation.

Monika E. Benitez, ALA
Monika E. Benitez, ALAAssociate

Mrs. Benitez was inspired to join the firm after working on a project for Friendship Village Center, a contemporary worship facility, as a student of Tom Jaeger’s at the University of Illinois. She developed a strong interest in senior housing and educational facilities. Her objective is to use interior design as a tool to enhance learning environments and provide quality of life for an aging society. Mrs. Benitez brings 18 years of technical and construction experience having worked as a Project Architect and Manager on a variety of faith-based projects. Her wide range of skills beyond project management include: interior product specifications, color and material selections, interior furniture/furnishings selection, landscape design, web design, and architectural photography.

Susan A. Maish, ALA
Susan A. Maish, ALAAssociate

Susan Maish, was a student of the firm’s founding Principal, Thomas Jaeger, at the University of Illinois-Chicago School of Architecture, and joined the firm as a student intern in 1993. Susan became a permanent team member after her graduation in 1995, was promoted to Associate in 2012, and has been dedicated to serving churches for over 20 years. Susan’s thoughtful design, professionalism, and dedication epitomizes the values and mission of JNKA. Susan works tirelessly with her clients from the initial Master Plan/Schematic Design Phase through project completion, hearing their needs and creating designs that reflect each client’s unique identity. This is seen best in the award-winning Trinity Green Trails project, an adaptive re-use conversion of a former Walgreen’s building into a new satellite contemporary worship and children’s ministry facility for Trinity Lutheran Church in Lisle. The relationships she creates with her clients and contractors continue well beyond the limits of construction. Her favorite activity away from work is volunteering at Feed My Starving Children with her family and friends.

Cesar Ceballos, AIA
Cesar Ceballos, AIAAssociate & Director of JNKA's Nevada Office
Mr. Ceballos adds a deep emphasis on public work to JNKA’s team, with 13 years of design and construction administration experience for Clark County Nevada public facilities, from single-occupancy to complex multi-integrated facilities and public parks. Prior to that he worked for Chicago-based architecture firms and large companies on a wide range of projects including banks, airports, and theaters. With a Master of Architecture Degree from the NewSchool of Architecture & Design, and a Master of Facility Planning and Management Degree from DePaul University, Mr. Ceballos’s extends his public service by developing cost effective design solutions, providing frequent lectures on public architecture, and participating in design juries for student presentations at UNLV and Freedom by Design, an AIAS and NCARB Community Program. Mr. Ceballos presently serves on the Board of the AIA Las Vegas Chapter and his honors include formal recognition from the United States House of Representatives for the Las Vegas Mayor’s Gallery 2020 Art Exhibition of Cultural Heritage, and a top five award for his submission to an international design competition for sustainable housing.

John R. Manfredy
John R. ManfredySenior Project Architect

Mr. Manfredy entered the architecture profession in 1991 and has worked for architecture firms Daniel P. Coffey and Associates, SCB and was senior designer for Crate&Barrel. He has worked on master planning, institutional, commercial, retail and residential projects throughout his career. Mr. Manfredy uses his experience in design, project management and BIM technology to oversee diverse project teams, construction document production and consultants while training staff on current 3D modeling and visualization technology. Mr. Manfredy is founding partner of Animated Vision, Inc. which offers web-based, space planning tools, photorealistic renderings and 3D modeling services for commercial office furniture manufacturers and wholesalers. In addition, Mr. Manfredy has over two decades of experience teaching architects and interior designers at institutions including Columbia College, Oakton Community College and the Illinois Institute of Art. The Illinois Institute of Technology’s architecture program welcomes Mr. Manfredy’s instruction in the Fall of 2018. Coursework has included design, 3D digital presentation, construction documents and BIM (building information modeling). Software instruction has including Revit Architecture, 3D Studio Max, AutoCAD, SketchUp and numerous virtual reality applications. John has served on design juries for the Illinois Institute of Art and Columbia College. Mr. Manfredy owns and operates Revit for Interior Designers, an online, web-based training platform. He earned his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Notre Dame.

Thomas M. Dietz, ALA, NCARB, LEED AP, BD+C
Thomas M. Dietz, ALA, NCARB, LEED AP, BD+CSenior Architect

Licensed since 2009, Mr. Dietz joined JNKA in 2018 and brings a diverse experience in the application of history and context to religious and institutional architecture. Long interested in faith-based and nonprofit work, Mr. Dietz is a member of both the Society for Catholic Liturgy and the Catholic Art Guild, and has assisted both the Institute for Sacred Architecture and Catholic Church Tours. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Mr. Dietz completed further architectural studies at MIT, principally working under several leading Renaissance historians. He supplemented his professional education with further studies in the humanities at the University of Chicago. Among his professional associations, he is an inaugural and ongoing member of the Society of Architectural Historians’ benefit host committees, and a LEED Accredited Professional and sitting member of the Illinois Green Alliance’s Program Committee. He is also accredited by the Congress for the New Urbanism, and has held a past gubernatorial appointment to the Illinois Capital Development Board’s Public Arts Advisory Committee.

Juan C. Ledesma, M. Arch.
Juan C. Ledesma, M. Arch.Job Captain

JNKA Design Coordinator, Juan Carlos Ledesma is a Mexican American graduate architectural intern who was a student of the firm’s founding Principal, Thomas Jaeger, at Judson University in Spring of 2013. Juan began his professional career as an Intern Architect at JNKA in June of 2014. He returned to Judson University in 2015 to complete his Master’s Degree in Architecture with a concentration in Sustainable Architecture. He utilized innovative architecture, permaculture and theology to develop architectural solutions that respected and maintained good stewardship of the environment. Juan also had the opportunity to study abroad as a student in Mexico, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic and Holland, where Juan improved his ability to sketch and analyze religious buildings, exterior public spaces and cities. Prior to returning to JNKA, Juan gained experience working on a variety of project types in all phases of design and construction, and he returned to JNKA in 2017 to apply his knowledge, interests and skills to the service of faith-based clients. In his spare time, Juan enjoys sketching, watercoloring, reading, and writing poetry and stories in Spanish.

Fernando Alessandrini, M.Arch., LEED AP
Fernando Alessandrini, M.Arch., LEED APJob Captain & Business Development Coordinator

JNKA Job Captain, Fernando Alessandrini, graduated from Universidad de las Americas-Puebla in Mexico in 1995, where he founded a design/build firm devoted to the design and construction of a wide array of projects. In 2007 he earned a Master’s Degree in Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a Thesis on the principles of Christian architecture while working as a Student Intern at JNKA. After graduating from IIT, Fernando worked for Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and as the Executive Director of Quiroga College, a new Catholic educational institution in Chicago. But Fernando has always been passionate about serving faith-based clients as an architect, and believes that religious principles have created the finest examples of architecture in history, so he returned to JNKA in 2018 to further pursue his great interest in religious architecture. With his strong personal and communications skills, Fernando also contributes to JNKA’s marketing and business development efforts.

Karen Loncar
Karen LoncarOffice Manager

Mrs. Loncar joined JNKA in 1999 and graduated from University of Illinois at Chicago. She provides administrative and accounting services to the firm.