Clarkson H. Oglesby

Clark Oglesby is the sixth recipient of the Carroll H. Dunn Award of Excellence. The award is presented by the Construction Industry Institute, and honors an individual for accomplishments in improving the cost effectiveness of the construction industry. In the judgment of the Executive Committee of the Board of Advisors, Clark Oglesby clearly exceeds all the criteria for the award and enhances CII’s highest honor.

Clarkson Hill Oglesby was born on November 9, 1908, in Clarksville, Missouri. He moved to Arizona at an early age, however, later graduating from Phoenix Union High School in 1926. Clark then attended Phoenix Junior College, where he completed a two-year associate degree program in 1928 and was elected to the junior college scholastic honorary society.

With degree in hand, Clark began an association with the Arizona Highway Department that would stretch intermittently over the next ten years. In 1928, he worked as a field draftsman for a survey crew. Two years later he asked an associate about where he might obtain an engineering degree. The friend, a professor from the University of Michigan, told Clark that two schools out west might serve him well: Stanford University or the University of Southern California. Clark chose Stanford, and enrolled in the civil engineering program.

His association with the Arizona Highway Department continued, as Clark worked summers during his first two-year period at Stanford. In 1932, he earned a degree in civil engineering “with great distinction,” and began his professional career as an office engineer for the highway department. By 1934, he was a structural designer with the bridge division. Still, Clark thought that more studies at Stanford would provide him with the background he needed to further his career.

He returned to the campus at Palo Alto in 1934 to pursue an Engineer degree, Stanford’s graduate degree between the master’s and doctorate programs. By 1936, he had completed the program, earning distinction as a member of both Phi Beta Kappa and Stanford’s original chapter of Tau Beta Pi. Returning to the highway department in Phoenix, he became chief of a survey party on construction of grade separation projects. Shortly thereafter, Clark designed several complex structures.

While his career moved forward with the highway department, the landlady at the rooming house where Clark was living took an interest in seeing that the young man found a suitable companion. She organized a dinner and an evening of playing “Hearts,” the card game, with a special guest – a young lady who worked nearby as a librarian. Clark was smitten, and on June 8, 1938, he married the special guest of that fateful evening, Ardis Hansen, whom he has now been married to for over 52 years.

In June of 1941, Clark joined the firm of Vinson & Pringle, a construction company that specialized in building water supply, gas and sewer systems. By 1943, he was chief engineer at the central office. His love of higher education, however, was tugging at his heart, and in September of that year he returned to the Stanford campus, thus continuing an academic career that would stretch over the next 45 years.

As World War II ended, those returning to the campus were expressing an interest in studying construction. Clark, being closely attuned to the students, suggested to the Stanford administration that a great opportunity was opening up to offer construction engineering courses. Construction education at the time, however, was largely viewed by academia as a vocational field. The university only reluctantly agreed to the idea of the construction courses, telling Clark to organize them on his own and that no extra pay would result. He accepted the challenge, and quickly developed two courses: Construction Estimating and Construction Engineering and Methods. The university administration was surprised when 70 students registered for the construction courses. This young professor, Stanford realized, had his hand on the pulse of engineering education.

With the first challenge now a victory, Clark took on the next frontier: graduate courses and an advanced degree program for construction engineering. He garnered the support of the man he viewed as his own mentor, Stanford professor Eugene Grant. As chairman of the civil engineering department, Grant had employed Clark as a graduate research assistant back in the ’30s. He recognized the inspiration in Clark’s idea for the graduate courses, and so he in turn sought and won the support of Frederick Terman, the dean of engineering, to begin upgrading construction education curriculum to the graduate level.

In 1956 and with the support of the university, Clark took charge of Stanford’s efforts in offering the first graduate courses in construction in the United States. He carefully nurtured his students’ minds, teaching them insightful ideas on construction techniques, safety, management and human behavior. He created a body of graduates with a thorough knowledge of the construction business- not simply an engineering education. He later would visit project sites where his former students were project managers, and would invite them back to the campus to lecture. Many of Clark’s students have become corporate executives in some of the world’s top engineering and construction firms. Others have helped organize construction graduate programs at several other major U.S. universities.

Clark is the coauthor of classic textbooks on construction productivity, methods improvement for construction managers, and highway engineering. He also has provided definitive research in both construction safety and human behavior in construction. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and is a recipient of ASCE’s Peurifoy Award for Construction Research. Clark Oglesby is truly a pioneer in construction education as well as a leader in our industry. His dedication to the advancement of construction education is unsurpassed. His innovative ideas, not only in engineering, but in educating the minds of the future, exemplify true leadership. His record of accomplishments is testament to a truly outstanding individual. CII takes great pride in its selection of Clark Oglesby as the sixth recipient of the Carroll H. Dunn Award of Excellence. Clark and Ardis live in Palo Alto. Two of their four daughters live close by.