H. B. Zachry, Jr.

H. B. (Bartell) Zachry, Jr., is the sixteenth recipient of the Carroll H. Dunn Award of Excellence. The award is presented by the Construction Industry Institute to honor an individual for accomplishments in improving the construction industry. According to the CII Executive Committee, Bartell Zachry exceeds all criteria and brings added distinction to the highest honor of the Institute.

Bartell Zachry was born in Laredo, Texas, on August 21, 1933, the third of five children. His father, H. B. (Pat) Zachry, Sr., had graduated from Texas A&M University in 1922 and established his own construction contracting company in Laredo in 1924.

His father started the Zachry Construction Company after a Webb County official asked him to design a plan for paving the dirt road between Laredo and Corpus Christi, which was almost 200 miles to the east. Although his father never pressured him to choose the construction path, Bartell was destined to become a constructor. The story is told that from an early age he would sit on his father’s tractor and imagine building roads, bridges, and all manner of wonderful things. He was fascinated with the work and had a keen interest in the mechanical, planning, and building processes of construction. He also had a deep affection both for the people who did the work and for the nature and character of the industry itself.

In the early 1940s, the lure of more work drew the Zachry family away from South Texas to San Antonio. Bartell graduated from Alamo Heights High School at the age of 16 in 1950 and, following in his father’s footsteps, enrolled at Texas A&M University. In 1954, he received his degree in civil engineering. Following graduation, he served three years in the U.S. Air Force as a pilot, returning to Laredo AFB for a portion of his training.

During the summers of his high school and college years, Bartell worked for the company in various capacities. These summer jobs would later pay big dividends, for he was learning every facet of the business. In 1957, he joined the H. B. Zachry Company full-time. By then, the company was a well-known international contracting firm.

On June 4, 1960, he married Mollie Steves, a native of San Antonio who had also attended Alamo Heights High School. Mollie was a recent graduate of the University of Texas. In typical construction fashion, the couple soon left on assignment. The Department of Defense had contracted the Zachry Company to perform work in the South Pacific, and Bartell was deputy manager providing logistics from offices in Honolulu, Hawaii. The company built numerous facilities in the Marshall Islands as part of this multi-million dollar joint venture. In addition, the couple’s first child, John, was born in Honolulu during this period.

From 1962 to 1964, Bartell served in Peru as project manager for the construction of the Pucallpa-Aguaytia Highway, which required cutting through more than 60 miles of jungle. Mollie accompanied Bartell to Peru, returning to San Antonio for the birth of their second son, David, in 1963.

An assignment that came after the highway work in Peru put Bartell in Chile, where the company was building a dam. In both instances, he insisted that everyone, even his U.S. colleagues, speak to him only in Spanish in order for him to perfect his command of the language.

In 1964, Bartell attended the Program for Management Development at Harvard Business School. He was named company president in 1965. The annual gross revenue of the company then stood at a respectable $35 million. Today, the Zachry Company continues as an industry leader. Gross annual revenues will approach $2 billion in 2001. Leading by example, Bartell Zachry firmly established the family name as one that could be counted on in the industry for quality, safety, and client satisfaction.

Bartell has led his company to worldwide status, but his interest and involvement in the industry itself has always been important. For example, he has served on the Board of Directors of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America since 1974. He currently serves on the AGC Executive Committee. He also is a member of the Beavers and the Moles, both honorary industry organizations. In 1994-95, he served as Chairman of the Construction Industry Round Table, an organization composed of 100 CEOs of the leading U.S. engineering and construction firms. Most recently, he was selected for induction into the Texas Business Hall of Fame. In addition, he was honored earlier this year by his hometown of Laredo as “Mr. South Texas.” That honor annually recognizes a regional business leader, physician, educator, or politician for outstanding community achievement. In 1968, his father was recognized with the same honor.

Bartell has always led his company with an example of excellence and has provided numerous opportunities for Zachry personnel to grow professionally. When CII was formed in 1983, the H. B. Zachry Company joined CII as a charter member. Today, the company leads the list of contractor member companies whose employees participate on various CII teams. Zachry employees are involved in CII at three times the average company’s participation level. Zachry personnel have served in many roles for CII, including research team chairmen, annual conference chairman, executive committee members, and chairman of the executive committee.

Bartell also has a keen interest in the non-construction businesses that are part of the Zachry family of companies. Those include ranching, oil and gas drilling and production, cement manufacturing, and real estate. He believes strongly in being personally involved and is just as comfortable talking to a road construction crew as he is in meeting with financial advisors.

For many years Bartell has given back to his community and is a civic leader in every sense of the word. He has served as General Campaign Chairman of United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County as well as Chairman of the Board of Trustees. He is currently Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and serves on the board of Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio. He is a past board member of the Texas Department of Corrections, the Texas Air Control Board, the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, and the Alamo Heights Independent School District.

An excerpt from a letter nominating Bartell for the Carroll H. Dunn Award of Excellence reads in part, “There is nobody who is prouder of being a ‘constructor’ than Bartell. Since the H. B. Zachry Company is privately owned, the cost of its support to organizations committed to improving the industry is, in effect, his own personal contribution, and it has been large.” CII is proud to recognize Bartell Zachry with the highest honor of the Institute, the Carroll H. Dunn Award of Excellence.

Bartell and Mollie, who has been described as the “anchor” of the family, still call San Antonio home. Sons John and David are both active in the company, while daughters Anne and Ellen raise families in San Antonio and Dallas, respectively. Bartell and Mollie have 10 grandchildren.