Thomas "Al" Whitley

February 25, 1956August 1, 2020

Al Whitley SAN DIEGO—Al Whitley, MBA, AIA, 64--CEO & Founder of Virtual Design & Construction Institute (VDCI) of San Diego, California, passed away unexpectedly at home early Saturday morning, August 1, 2020.

SERVICE: Al’s wish was to be buried with his mother and maternal grandparents in Portsmouth, Virginia. Because of Covid-19, a public memorial will not be held.

Al was born February 25, 1956, in Portsmouth, Virginia. He attended Churchland High School in Portsmouth, and in 1977, graduated from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Al began his career as a U.S. Naval Supply Corps officer, but he always wanted to be an architect. Al was stationed at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, California when he left the Navy after about five years of active duty. He went to work for his first architectural employer who hired him due to his strong computer skills. He was one of the first architectural interns in San Diego to use AutoCAD 1.0. In 1989, Al founded his AIA (American Institute of Architects) award-winning San Diego-based architectural practice, Whitley Consulting Group.

By 1991, Al had become a licensed architect, earned his MBA from San Diego State University in Information Systems, and he developed the AutoCAD curriculum for the University of California San Diego. In 1997, Al founded cadteacher as an extension of the client support services of his architectural practice. In 2002, cadteacher and UC San Diego integrated their educational programs under Al’s leadership. Cadteacher continued to grow as an independent educational institution, and was the first nationally-accredited Autodesk Training Center in North America, as well as approved as an AIA continuing education provider. Cadteacher’s other accreditations include ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training), the U.S. Department of Education, Certiport Authorized Testing Center, CalJobs, San Diego Workforce Partnership, and others. In 2011, cadteacher updated its name to Virtual Design & Construction Institute (VDCI).

The bedrock principle that guided Al’s life was the self-imposed responsibility to make a positive difference in the lives of those around him. Al spent his professional career finding, hiring, and mentoring smart, young, and ambitious professionals in the architectural, engineering and construction industries. His office culture was developed as an extension of Al’s personality, including the office gags and comradery; but under the surface Al’s greatest gift was training, encouraging, and empowering his staff. Many of the staff from Whitley Consulting Group, cadteacher, and VDCI began their careers under Al’s guidance, and would identify Al’s leadership as the key to their professional journey. Al reveled in the successes of the many careers that he could claim to having played a part in launching.

Al’s all-time favorite project was building a retreat/home in the Cuyamaca mountains near his home in San Diego. He was able to incorporate some of his favorite design themes from The Ahwahnee in Yosemite National Park, as well as elements from the National Park lodges at Bryce Canyon, Zion and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Al loved being taken back in time, enjoying a slower pace and spending time with his husband Ted in the mountains.

Al served as the 2020 Secretary/Treasurer of the AIA San Diego Region Board of Directors, and was Chairman of the Autodesk Training Center Leadership Council for North America. From 2013 through 2019, Al was San Diego Regional Chairman of the Rolls Royce Owners’ Club, and for more than 10 years has served as Secretary of the North Peak Property Owners’ Association.

Al was preceded in death by his mother, Lynette Gunnell Whitley, in-laws John W. and Nancy J. Struck, maternal grandparents H. Leroy and Kathleen B. Gunnell, and brother-in-law J. Kenneth McCarty.

SURVIVORS: Al is survived by his husband, Ted Struck; sister, Karen McCarty of Fort Worth, Texas; brother-in laws Larry Struck of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania and Doug Struck of Boston, Massachusetts; nephews and nieces David McCarty, Stephen McCarty, Jack Henry Struck, and Julianna Struck.

MEMORIALS: In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to the “Al Whitley Memorial Scholarship Fund." This scholarship fund (a 501(c)(3) organization) has been established to continue Al’s legacy of making a positive difference in the lives of others by encouraging promising students to pursue their professional journeys. Selected students will be provided scholarships for enrollment at Virtual Design & Construction Institute (VDCI), which will enhance their knowledge of software applications in architectural practices, and will provide additional career opportunities for the next generation of architects and engineers. Tax deductible contributions can be made at or click on the link below.


Thomas "Al" Whitley

have a memory or condolence to add?

Lynn Sloane Bemiller

June 16, 2021

I just read of Al's passing in the W&M Alumni Magazine. Our freshman year, Al and I were two of a group of 10 close friends who hung out and survived the transition to adulthood together.

I still have a photo of Al doing his best Carol Channing impersonation, and it still makes me laugh. He was one of a kind!

Rest in peace, my old friend.

Love, 'Sloane'

Ken Green

April 16, 2021

Oh, Al, how my heart is sore, but how much my memories are rich with remembering our times with you and Sandy at breakfasts in Mission Valley and the times at AIA conventions over the years. I was watching a travelogue of England tonight and someone who could be your brother was leading a tour with all of your wit and humor. Went online to look for you. Gee, the last time I saw you, you were there with Ted and your classic cars in Hillcrest- just by chance. I am missing you. Thank you for all the good times and memories.

Rob Fender

March 13, 2021

Wow... I was surfing the internet and came across a mention of the "CAD Teacher". So, I researched to see how good ol Al was doing. I couldn't find a directory on their website, so I searched Al online and found out about his passing. So sad... way too young to go off to the electronic cad site in the sky. I first met Al in the late 1980's, when Dale Nagle Architect, in La Jolla, hired a group of gun-slinger CAD people to fast-track a hotel that needed to be done completely AutoCAD. At the time, there were about four of us who were proficient enough to take on the task. One already was working in Nagles office, and I'm sorry I can't remember his name. Then there was Al, myself, and Perry Purcifell (spelling ?). Together, we put together one of the best set of documents (at that time) of an AutoCAD produced project. What a great experience. I was already teaching CAD at Mesa College and Al was doing training himself. I was able to get Perry hired on to teach part time at Mesa, teaching our advanced classes. At the time, together we were probably teaching 90%+ of those learning CAD in San Diego County. Like one of the responses above, Al was a very, very fast typist. At the time, the Digitizer Pad for CAD was the rage. As an instructor, I always encouraged my students to use the Pad, over typing (mostly because I was a two finger typer). But Al, he was an anomaly, to say the least. He was so brilliant, he could go in and re-write the program, and customize the software to his desire. I never had any inclination to use keyboard shortcuts (because of my slow typing skills), but Al, he was phenomenal on the keyboard. I only saw one person type faster than him... a legal secretary who's fingers were a super blur compared to Al's just being a blurr. I didn't see Al much after working with Nagle, but we would communicate periodically about CAD training over the years. I moved to Julian in the late 90's and Al built his place over in Cuyamaca. Bye Al

Kelly McNeil-Mange

September 9, 2020

Just received the news of Al's passing. I met Al and Ted in the 80's. Al was one of the kindest most genuine people I have ever known. My sincere condolences to his husband, Ted, and their family. RIP dear Al.

Tyler Grant

August 28, 2020

I worked for Al for 8 years while in school and after graduating from school.

Al wasn't just a boss. I revered him as a mentor and a close friend. He taught me a lot about AutoCAD, the field of Architecture, teaching, and life overall. Those are lessons that I will carry forever.

His attitude towards everything was positive and he could light up a room. I greatly enjoyed our lunch outings even after I had moved on from his office and he always was asking about how things were going from work to life in general. He took a personal interest in my life.

Our get togethers always ran long as neither of us could stop talking, and we talked about everything. A true friend.

His positive attitude and passion for life will be dearly missed. Goodbye my dear friend.

George Stone

August 27, 2020

Al and I along with a few others shared a great friendship in high school and then during the summers between college years. Unfortunately, all the members of our little group of friends went to different colleges. Then, after college we all went different directions pursuing our own careers. This often happens with good friends. But my memories of those days are as clear as if they were yesterday instead of nearly fifty years ago. And my sense of loss is as strong as if we had never drifted apart. Goodbye old friend and may you rest in God’s arms.

Ginger Garbarini

August 26, 2020

I have known Al for over 40 years. We met June 1979 at Navy Officer’s Candidate School in Newport RI. Al and I were in the same company - “Alpha”. Al was in the class before me. During my first week of hazing as a “Candidate Under Military Instruction - CUMIN” Al theatrically strode the passageway (hallway) wearing aviator sunglasses shouting at us CUMIN with a loud, deep voice: CUMIN, cage your eyes (i.e., look straight forward). It was an impressive performance. After this “hell week” was finished Al and I eventually became friends. He convinced me to switch career paths to the Navy Supply Corps - the business part of the Navy, which made it much easier to transition to a civilian job - and Al was right! Al and I next met up at Navy Supply Corps School in Athens GA. Al was kind enough to find me an affordable apartment in the area. We lost touch after completing this school. Years later “out of the blue” I received a card in the mail from Al. We reconnected during my business trips to San Diego for a branch of the Navy. Al & Ted were very involved with the Rolls-Royce Owners Club and Al encouraged me to join, even though I didn’t own a Rolls. I took Al’s advice and now own one myself. Al also took me up to Ted & his fabulous home on Mountain Circle during construction and when it was finished. What an architectural achievement! Al was a “one in a million” type person - so brilliant, so kind, so full of life, as others have written on this website. A life taken too soon - a light has gone out of this word. Rest in peace my friend.

Marty Poirier

August 25, 2020

This is such a shock - too young - but what beautiful path he took us along.

Al lives in the pantheon of great teachers. His openness, kindness, and patience was always on display - along with serious technical talent. In the early '90's, Al took on the task of teaching our office CAD. All of us participated and to this day it is the foundational training for my lame competence in the medium. He always made time for everyone and never made you feel dumb for asking questions.

Al - you will be missed and remembered.

Scott Crispell

August 24, 2020

As very close friends of Ted and Al's for well over 30 years, we mourn Al's passing greatly. D J Akins will never be the same.

Scott and Neil

Thomas Powell

August 21, 2020

I've known Al since the early 1990s. I remember first meeting him at UCSD Extension where we both were teaching. We didn't teach the same topic, but became fast friends because we both had a passion for what we did and teaching people. That friendship continued for years to his recent surprising passing. I take only a little solace that in last few years we really had rekindled our interactions a lot more than before.

Everyone who knew Al knows he was a real force of life. He always wanted to share his passions, whether it was relating a story of CAD tools, teaching, setting up VDCI, trips to Yosemite and more. His energy was so positive you couldn't help but to have a better day after you talked to him. If you saw him in person you just couldn't help not be effected by the twinkle in his eye, the mischievous grin and his infectious chuckle. He just made things better.

The world sadly won't be a better place without Al in it, his kind of positive and sincere personality is a bit too rare these days. However, just thinking about him as I type this I can't help but smile and remember the last time I saw him ride his motorcycle away from a lunch meeting we'd just had.

Adios friend. Glad I was on this planet the same time you were and got to know you. I'll try my best to keep the positivity you brought to the world alive until we meet again.