History of the Firm

In 1963, R. Thomas Jaeger joined an existing architecture firm that designed a broad range of residential and commercial buildings. He soon changed the firm’s direction with his award-winning design of the St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, which led to additional church projects and a gradual specialization in religious architecture. Robert M. Nickola joined the firm in 1976, and Jaeger, Nickola & Associates (JNA) was established in 1984. In 1992, JNA made a commitment to exclusively serve churches and faith-based communities, and this has remained the firm’s focus ever since. In 2005, David C. Kuhlman joined JNA as a principal, bringing a broad range of experience in senior housing, religious, educational, and health care projects. In 2012, David Kuhlman succeeded Robert Nickola as President, and in 2013 the name of the firm changed to Jaeger Nickola Kuhlman & Associates (JNKA) as the firm celebrated its 50th Anniversary.


• Serving faith-based clients, including churches, synagogues, schools, universities, senior housing providers and related organizations who are committed to helping people to live, learn, and grow in their faith.
• Thoughtful design, as required to develop creative solutions that reflect the beliefs and unique identity of each client and community we serve.
• Professionalism, exemplified by our integrity and dedication to good communication, strong team-oriented working relationships, excellence in the services we provide, and business practices that are successful and ethical yet open to taking reasonable risks.
• Good stewardship, manifested by our commitment to sustainable design and responsible management of the environment and of our clients’ physical and financial resources.
• Relationships, with our clients and professional colleagues, but most especially with our families as we strive to achieve a healthy balance between professional work and family life.
• Respect, for religious freedom and the unique values and beliefs of our clients and employees.

Our mission is to serve faith-based communities in providing full architectural services that define and realize their unique visions, needs, and goals, through a thoughtful and collaborative process that enriches their lives while practicing good stewardship of their resources.

Our Vision is to be a national leader in serving faith-based communities as architects, creating thoughtful and sustainable designs that respect and enrich the environment of each client we serve.

We are committed to developing strong working relationships and providing steadfast guidance to our clients through each step of the design process, from the initial assessment, programming and master planning phase, through the subsequent design and implementation phases, until the completion of construction, with utmost professionalism and dedication, striving for excellence in all that we do.

Overview of the Firm

Our work has received numerous awards for excellence in architecture and planning from a wide variety of professional organizations (see “Honors & Awards”), but one of our greatest strengths is our Assessment, Visioning, and Master Planning Process, which helps our clients to understand the condition of their existing facilities, define their programming needs and goals and develop architectural designs and construction cost estimates to achieve those goals. /p>

We pride ourselves on our technical proficiency and on successfully executing the construction phase of each project with a team-oriented approach. Our ability to work collaboratively with church leaders, building committees, consultants, and contractors is essential to helping our clients stay on budget while seeing their visions become reality.

Our personal faith experiences and the architectural challenges and rewards of working with faith-based organizations are the foundations of our commitment to specialize in religious architecture. Our collective passion drives us as we address the concerns, needs, and goals of these unique projects, which provide a meaningful outlet for our creative talents that serve our clients in their most important work.

Meet our Team

David C. Kuhlman, AIA, ALA, NCARB
David C. Kuhlman, AIA, ALA, NCARBPresident

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
Kimberly Z. KuhlmanVice 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
Cesar CeballosAssociate & 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 Manfredy
John ManfredySenior Architect

John entered the architecture profession in 1991 and has worked on master planning, institutional, commercial, retail and residential projects throughout his career.  He is a 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, he 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 Dietz
Thomas DietzSenior Architect

Licensed since 2009, Mr. Dietz brings a diverse experience in the application of history and context to institutional architecture and urban development. Long interested in faith-based and nonprofit work, he is a member of both the Society for Catholic Liturgy and 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 Ledesma
Juan LedesmaJob Captain

Juan Carlos is a Mexican American architect who began his professional architectural career as an intern at JNKA in June of 2014. He left JNKA in June 2015 to complete his master’s degree in architecture at Judson University with a concentration in sustainable architecture. He utilized innovative architecture, permaculture and theology to find architectural solutions that respected and maintained good stewardship of the environment. In addition, Juan has had the opportunity to study abroad in Mexico, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic and Holland. In his travels, Juan honed his ability to sketch and analyze religious buildings, piazzas and cities. Prior to returning to JNKA, Juan gained experience working on a variety of project types in all phases of design through construction. Having returned to JNKA, Juan is looking forward to applying his knowledge and skillset to the service of the many faith-based clients of JNKA.  In his spare time, Juan enjoys sketching and watercoloring, reading, and writing poetry and stories in his native language, Spanish.

Fernando Alessandrini
Fernando AlessandriniJob Captain

Mr. Alessandrini graduated from Universidad de las Americas-Puebla in Mexico, where he founded a design/build firm devoted to a wide array of projects. He then went on to obtain his Master’s Degree at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, fulfilling his internship at JNKA and writing his Thesis on the principles of Catholic architecture. Fernando has always been passionate about faith-based architecture, returning to JNKA to continue on his journey. Fernando also loves teaching and devotes time on weekends to guide architectural church tours of the City of Chicago’s finest religious architecture and art.

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.