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June 16, 2016

Garrity, Lovell and Magnusson look back at how the construction industry has changed

Special to the Journal

When Kathleen Garrity entered the construction field in the early 1980s, a male counterpart quipped, “Are you sure you're OK wearing a hard hat and boots?”

“Yes,” Garrity replied, “but that would look silly when I appear before the Senate.”

From the outset of her career, Garrity said she was confident she could make a difference in the industry by advancing an agenda of workplace safety, craft education and outreach to underprivileged communities.

“I've always worked in construction because the people in the field are such great people, they work hard and they take risks,” Garrity said. “They solve problems and they're there when you need them.”

For her more than 35 years in the industry, Garrity was recently inducted into the University of Washington's Construction Industry Hall of Fame. The UW Department of Construction Management also inducted Jon Magnusson, CEO of Magnusson Klemencic Associates, and Philip Lovell, former vice president and operations manager of Turner Construction's Northwest region.

Since 1995, the Hall of Fame has inducted local industry leaders for their work in construction and their contributions to education, according to Bill Bender, a professor and department chair at the UW College of Built Environments.

“They are all accomplished leaders in their companies and local associations,” Bender said. “Jon is a world-renowned structural engineer, Kathleen is known for supporting contractors and Philip is known throughout his company as an outstanding leader.”

Kathleen Garrity

Bender said Garrity, as president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Washington, was instrumental in growing membership within the association, but also spearheaded important education initiatives.

Garrity became president of the Washington State Electrical Contractors Association in the early 1980s and set her sights on developing a training program for non-union contractors.

When the ABC of Western Washington needed a new executive director a few years later, Garrity jumped at the chance to join forces with the Associated General Contractors of Washington to form the Construction Industry Training Council.


At the time, in the mid-1980s, Garrity said she and the CITC fought hard to win approval of the training from the Washington State Apprenticeship and Training Council.

In the 1990s, Garrity said she became “very involved working with the minority community” of contractors to provide education and mentoring — initiating a curriculum of night classes covering subjects such as construction scheduling, human resource management and worker safety.

During her time with the ABC Garrity also focused on workplace safety training for members.

“The worker benefits (from safety training) because they can go home at night; the contractor benefits because their insurance rates go down; and the owner or developer benefits because they have lower costs due to no safety violations,” Garrity said. “There's no downside to having safety programs.”

Garrity, like Magnusson and Lovell, said her priority has been finding ways of giving back to the industry.

Though one year into retirement, Garrity shows little sign of slowing down. Garrity still is a CITC board member, and continues to assist the ABC by advising chapters on “how to get to the next level of performance.”

Next week, Garrity will travel to Washington, D.C., to advise that ABC chapter's president on how to improve the chapter. “I think it's important to continue to help the ABC, and giving back some of the skills and experience I've collected over the years isn't a bad way to spend my retirement,” she said.

Phil Lovell

For Lovell, staying active with the UW Construction Industry Advisory Council allows him to help aspiring architects and engineers.

“We keep the UW faculty and curriculum in touch with what's going on in the industry,” Lovell said. “In our industry, the schooling students receive can be directly applied in the marketplace and the reward is that students immediately see and feel the results of their efforts.”

Trained as a civil engineer at Columbia University in the early 1960s, Lovell also served in the Navy before joining Turner in 1966.


Lovell said one of his greatest achievements and most rewarding experiences was serving as project manager for the Cigna south campus headquarters building, a $100 million project built in 1980.

“At that time, that was a major project,” Lovell said. “The biggest challenge was accommodating newer design concepts with the desired level of quality, while maintaining the schedule for both preconstruction and construction phases of the project.”

Lovell went on the serve as principal in charge for Turner's construction of CenturyLink Field and Portland's Rose Garden, now known as Moda Center, home of the Portland Trail Blazers.

These days, Lovell remains busy sharing his experience through the AGC Education Foundation. Lovell is one of the lead trainers for a course focusing on the general contractor/construction manager delivery system.

Jon Magnusson

Magnusson began the Architecture, Construction, Engineering (ACE) Mentor Program in Washington.

The program was founded in New York City in the early 1990s. Magnusson said he was so moved by a speech given by an African American ACE student in New York in 2001 that he was inspired to found the Washington ACE chapter.

“At that moment,” he recalled about the 2001 visit, “I knew the value of ACE and within three months had recruited leaders from the design and build community to get it all started here.”


Magnusson, who worked with MKA as a structural engineer and oversaw landmark Seattle projects such as CenturyLink Field, Benaroya Hall and the Seattle Central Library, said he's gratified to see ACE graduates now mentoring new ACE members.

“A common theme among ACE students is gratitude for helping them discover the joy of creating the built environment,” Magnusson said. “We now have had students complete the cycle from mentee to mentor.”

He said ACE helps students appreciate the “joy, excitement and rewards of a career in design and construction.”

As a structural engineer, Magnusson said he seeks to communicate to ACE students the theme that “engineering is a team sport.”

“The key to success is creative interaction within the team, including a lot of careful listening by the engineer,” he said.

With the advent of 3-D printing and 3-D fabrication, Magnusson said structural engineering is rapidly evolving with the help of advanced technology.

“We now regularly conceptualize, engineer and work with builders to create structures that were impossible even 20 years ago,” Magnusson said. “There has never been a more exciting time in the history of the built environment.”

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