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May 27, 2014

Hall of Fame at UW adds 3: Schuchart, Ashbaugh and Wright

Journal Construction Editor

This week David Ashbaugh, George Schuchart Sr. and Howard S. Wright will be inducted into the University of Washington Construction Industry Hall of Fame, chosen by the Department of Construction Management and its Construction Industry Advisory Council.


The hall of fame was established in 1995 to honor people for significant contributions to the industry, the community and construction education.

Ashbaugh, Wright and Schuchart will join 35 others in the hall of fame.

David Ashbaugh

David Ashbaugh's legal career spanned nearly 40 years. He spent a lot of that time giving back to the construction industry by mentoring attorneys and construction firm leaders, and holding free construction law seminars. He also served on the boards of AGC of Washington, AGC Education Foundation, UW Construction Industry Advisory Council and Rushforth Construction.

John Schaufelberger, dean of the College of Built Environments at the UW, wrote that Ashbaugh was selected for his strong support of the industry and education.

Ashbaugh grew up in Parkland and got a job during college as a laborer at Tucci & Sons, an asphalt paving, earthwork and utility firm in Tacoma. One day while working hard in the rain and eating a sandwich packed by his mother, Ashbaugh decided to become a lawyer. He went on to earn a law degree from the University of Idaho.

Ashbaugh started his legal career as a law clerk for Judge Revelle in King County Superior Court. After several years in private practice, he became a partner at Oles, Morrison, Rinker, Stanislaw & Ashbaugh in Seattle. In 1987, he left to form Ashbaugh Beal.

Hall of Fame banquet
WHEN: 6-9 p.m., May 30

WHERE: Chihuly Garden and Glass at Seattle Center

COST: $175

RESERVATIONS: (206) 685-4438 or http://tinyurl.com/UWHoF2014.

John Riper, managing partner at Ashbaugh Beal, told the DJC that Ashbaugh's greatest professional accomplishment was practicing law with his daughter, Becki Ashbaugh, who became a partner in the firm last year.

Becki said she worked with her dad for eight years.

“It was amazing (working with him),” she said. “It was special to see that side of him and develop our business relationship. For the two of us, it was incredibly satisfying and fun.”

Becki said her dad worked hard for everything he got in life. She said whenever he heard the word “no,” that meant he had to try harder.

David Ashbaugh died earlier this year of cancer, but Becki said he found out about his nomination a week before he passed away.

Becki said she has heard from many people over the past months about how much her father cared for them and how he would show up for their events or when he was needed.

“He was just incredibly dependable, not just in business but also from a friend standpoint,” Becki said.

One of those friends was Frank Young, a member of the hall of fame who nominated him.

Years ago, Ashbaugh would show up at AGC Education Foundation meetings wearing a green “money” jacket that people could pin dollars onto for the foundation. Young brought the jacket out of retirement at the first board meeting after David Ashbaugh's death as a tribute to him.

The AGC Southern District dedicated an education room in his memory.

Ashbaugh made giving back part of Ashbaugh Beal's corporate culture. The law firm in 2012 started sponsoring the AGC Southern District golf tournament and plans to continue.

Howard S. Wright


Howard S. Wright made a mark on the Seattle skyline with landmarks such as the Space Needle, Monorail and the Washington State Coliseum — all part of the 1962 World's Fair.

His construction roots ran deep: His grandfather, who was a carpenter and cabinetmaker, started the company that bears the family name in 1885 in Port Townsend.

Howard S. Wright's father, Howard H. Wright, took over the company in the 1930s along with George J. Schuchart, who was Howard H. Wright's brother-in-law.

Howard S. Wright Construction Co. moved to Everett and later to Seattle, where it built Columbia Center, every Wright Runstad & Co. office building and nearly every Martin Selig office building.

Howard S. Wright joined the business around 1950, after earning a bachelor's degree in business administration from the UW and serving in the Army. He worked at the company until the early 1980s and then sold his interest to the Schuchart family.

Construction wasn't the only game for Howard S. Wright: He became a developer in 1972 when he and Jon Runstad started Howard S. Wright Development Co., which was later renamed Wright Runstad & Co.

Howard S. Wright continued to be a shareholder in the development company until his death in 1996.

“My dad was a great ambassador,” said Jeff Wright, who worked with the construction company for two years after graduating from the UW and is now chairman of Space Needle Corp., which is owned by the Wright family.

Jeff said his father would bring development ideas to the table and make deals. “He was one of the most friendly individuals you would ever meet,” he said.

The construction company is now owned by Balfour Beatty Construction of Texas.

Howard S. Wright III, another son, said the company has been owned by three entities over the past 30 years and all of them have kept the Howard S. Wright name.

“It's got some brand equity to it because of its reputation,” he said.

Howard S. Wright III said a few clients were so impressed with the work done on their commercial projects that they asked the company to build their homes. “That's the type of relationship and amount of trust they had with him,” he said.

Outside of construction and development, Howard S. Wright was a civic leader who raised money for Lakeside School, University of Washington, Seattle University, Virginia Mason, Seattle Opera and others. He also provided summer jobs to freshmen football players at the UW.

Jeff said there were two things his dad was most proud of: building the Space Needle and being a founding partner of the Seattle Seahawks.

George Schuchart Sr.


George Schuchart Sr. grew up in Everett and went to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he earned a bachelor's degree in engineering. He planned to make a career in the Navy until his uncle, Howard H. Wright, convinced him in the early 1950s to join the family business. That's where he worked with his first cousin, Howard S. Wright, another new inductee into the hall of fame.

Schuchart focused on industrial work, including pulp and paper mills, and built nuclear power plants at Rainier, Ore., and Hanford.

George Schuchart Jr. said his dad's biggest accomplishment was the refineries and pump stations he built in the 1970s and 80s for BP, Arco, Chevron and Shell. They were built in modules in the Puget Sound area and then barged to the North Slope of Alaska. Each trip had to be made during a narrow window of time to avoid sea ice.

The company built more than 550 modules, which varied from about 5 tons to more than 4,300 tons.

“It was remarkable, it was quite an accomplishment,” said George Jr.

The family business eventually became Wright Schuchart, which had three branches: General Construction Co. for marine projects, Wright Schuchart Harbor Co. for industrial and Howard S. Wright Construction Co. for commercial.

Some companies in the family business were created out of necessity. For example, the engineering firm Schuchart & Associates was formed in 1975 after running into problems with incomplete drawings for pulp and paper mills, and their equipment. That company was sold in the 1980s to employee Bob Harris, who changed the name to Harris Group.

In 1987, Wright Schuchart was sold to Fletcher Challenge of New Zealand. George Sr. retired the following year and George Jr., who also worked at Wright Schuchart, left to form a new construction company called Schuchart. The new company, where George Jr. is president and CEO, built the Bullitt Center in Seattle, which bills itself as the world's greenest commercial building.

George Sr. boated and golfed in his spare time, and spent many winters in Palm Springs, California. He now resides in Seattle.

Another love was flying. George Jr. said his dad flew reconnaissance planes when he was in the Navy and owned four airplanes over the years.

During the summer, George Sr. lived at Mission Beach on the Tulalip Reservation and commuted to work in Seattle by seaplane. He would meet his son after flying back from work at end the day and would then get towed on water skis to the family summer house on Puget Sound.

George Sr. also served as president of Seattle Children's Home, a regent at Bastyr University and president of the board at Bush School.

The hall of fame induction banquet will be Friday at Chihuly Garden and Glass, which was built by George Schuchart Jr.'s construction company.

Benjamin Minnick can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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