Richard L. Tucker

Richard L. Tucker is the twelfth 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 cost effectiveness of the construction industry. The Executive Committee of the CII Board of Advisors selected Richard Tucker because he exceeds all criteria for the award and brings esteem to CII’s highest recognition.

Richard Tucker was born on July 19, 1935, in Wichita Falls, Texas, to Floyd and Zula Tucker. The couple had three older daughters, and a few years after Richard was born, the family moved to Hereford in the Texas Panhandle. Here Richard grew up in a small town atmosphere, with the Baptist church serving as a strong centerpiece of activity and social affairs. His father was a residential contractor and painter, and his mother raised the children at home.

In high school, Richard showed great talent in math. In his junior year, he won the Texas state “Numbers Sense” contest, and his math teacher took him aside and told Richard that he would make a good engineer. By the time he graduated from Hereford High School in 1953, Richard had worked part-time and even several summers at the local grocery store. The owner of the store offered to help Richard with a career in the grocery business. Richard, however, had his sights set on other things. He played the trumpet, and decided that the music scholarship offered to him by Hardin-Simmons University might lead to bigger and better things. So in 1953 he left for Abilene, Texas, with music scholarship in hand.

After his freshman year, he returned to Hereford for summer work. His first year of college had made him realize that Hardin-Simmons' liberal arts program was limited in its course work in the sciences. He decided that to become an engineer, he would enroll at the University of Texas.

The university provided Richard with the curriculum and the challenges he needed. In fact, upon finishing his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, he went directly into the master’s program to continue the engineering studies for which he now had a passion. It was during that first year at UT in 1954, however, that Richard asked a physics classmate, Shirley Smith, if he could borrow her lab report. She suspected he didn’t need the lab report, but loaned it to him anyway. Her suspicions were soon confirmed: Richard didn’t need that lab report. The two began dating, and on September 1, 1956, Richard and Shirley were married.

Richard earned his master’s degree, and then entered UT’s doctoral program. Hudson Matlock and Lymon Reese, both UT engineering professors, were conducting offshore oil well platform research. Richard studied under the two researchers and was greatly influenced by them. He finalized his doctoral dissertation in 1963 while living in Arlington, Texas, for he had already accepted a position as assistant professor of engineering with Arlington State College.

Richard was appointed Associate Dean of the College of Engineering at Arlington in 1967. By that time, the college had become The University of Texas at Arlington. In the fall of 1974, he decided to venture away from academia and joined a Dallas architectural/engineering firm as vice president of research. Here, he participated in a research effort by the Associated General Contractors. This research, although allowing Richard the opportunity to meet others in the engineering and construction field such as Carroll Dunn, did not come to full fruition. It did, however, strengthen his belief that academia could be the key to the industry’s quest for improvement. His experience in the business world had provided insight, but he began to ponder a return to academia.

Fortune was with him, and he received a timely call from one of his UT mentors. Hudson Matlock informed him that UT wanted to begin a construction management program. Richard accepted UT’s offer, returned to the campus in 1976, and immediately teamed up with fellow faculty member John Borcherding on productivity improvement research. Their collaborative effort proved invaluable to the Procter & Gamble Company, and others began to search out Richard to help them in improving construction productivity.

In 1979, Richard initiated a productivity improvement conference to be conducted at the UT campus. In September of that year, the first Construction Productivity Improvement (CPI) Conference was held. Representatives from industry were invited to pool their resources to identify successful project practices. The conference that Richard organized was a foreshadowing of an industry-academic merger to promote industry improvement through research.

In 1980, Texaco had a troublesome project in Pembroke, Wales. Richard became a consultant to Texaco, and again brought in John Borcherding to help in the research effort. The multi-million dollar international project was notably improved, and Lou Garbrecht, General Manager of Corporate Engineering for Texaco, requested that Richard perform research on its upcoming Louisiana Project. With four billion dollars of construction planned, Texaco knew that improvements in project planning and execution were critical. Likewise, Richard realized the potential the project had as a milestone in industry-academia research. He proposed that the Louisiana Project become the subject of UT research. Texaco agreed, and the five-year project resulted in a number of significant benefits, including the recognition of UT faculty as leaders in the field of productivity improvement research.

About the same time, The Business Roundtable was conducting its landmark study, the Construction Industry Cost Effectiveness (CICE) Project. The project manager for the Roundtable was Carroll Dunn. Lou Garbrecht was involved as well. Carroll immediately selected Richard to participate, specifically to examine technology issues. CICE led to the recommendation that a center for construction research be established, and the creation of CII was a step closer to becoming reality.

When it came time to lay the foundation for CII, Carroll Dunn, Lou Garbrecht, Robert Miller of DuPont, UT officials, Richard, and others met to consider the scope of work, the location, and even the name of the institute. Through several meetings, CII evolved and was established as part of the Bureau of Engineering Research in UT’s College of Engineering. Richard was the overwhelming choice to be CII Director. On October 27, 1983, CII was formally established.

CII was created as a national forum to improve cost effectiveness. Richard’s leadership helped to establish the Institute as a world-class example of industry and academia cooperation. CII is now recognized as the premier research organization for the construction industry, and is imitated by others around the world. Organizations such as the European Construction Institute and the Construction Industry Institute–Australia were formed as a direct result of the success of CII. Representatives from industry and academia in Japan, Brazil, Chile, and other countries have visited the CII offices in Austin to learn how their countries and their engineering and construction industries can emulate CII to improve their industries’ standards of research and even their countries’ standards of living.

CII itself has grown from a research-based organization to one that encompasses ongoing education courses, implementation assessments, and benchmarking and metrics analyses. Throughout the evolution of CII, Richard has been the guiding force who has shaped the reputation that the Institute now commands, and has helped to assure that CII stays true to its mission of improving the industry.

When asked recently about the selection of Richard as the recipient of the Carroll Dunn Award of Excellence, Carroll said, “I can think of no better candidate than Richard.” He also expressed his delight at seeing the award named in his honor go to an individual whose personal dedication was largely responsible for the creation and success of the Construction Industry Institute. Richard has been honored many times. Among his many recognitions, he was the first recipient of the American Society of Civil Engineers Peurifoy Award for Construction Research. He received the Joe J. King Professional Engineering Achievement Award from the University of Texas. He was the first recipient of the Ronald Reagan Award for Individual Initiative. In 1993, he received the Outstanding Construction Educator Award from the National Society of Professional Engineers. In 1994, he was honored as a Distinguished Graduate of The University of Texas College of Engineering. In 1996, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Also, he became Director of Construction 21st Century, a program funded by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Richard is deeply deserving of CII’s highest honor. His leadership, guidance, and direction have helped thousands of CII participants to join together in a rewarding, cooperative effort of improving one of the world’s most important industries. CII salutes Richard Tucker with the Carroll H. Dunn Award of Excellence.

Richard and Shirley live in Austin. Their son, Bryan, is a plant manager for Texaco in Midland, Texas, and their daughter, Karen, is an attorney for Vinson & Elkins in Houston. They have three granddaughters, Brittany, Stacey, and Carson, and are awaiting the arrival of a fourth grandchild this fall.