Howard S. Turner, who helped oversee construction of Madison Square Garden in New York as president of Turner Construction Co., the builder founded by his uncle, has died. He was 100.
Turner Construction, one of the largest U.S. builders, has erected world landmarks including the new Yankee Stadium in New York; the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida; and the world’s tallest and second-tallest buildings, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and Taipei 101 in Taiwan. Since 1999 it has been a unit of Hochtief AG (HOT), Germany’s largest construction company, based in Essen.
Howard Turner was the last member of his family to serve as president of the New York-based company, a title he assumed in 1965. He became chief executive officer in 1968 and was chairman from 1971 to 1978. From 1965 to 1978, the builder’s U.S. operations grew from seven cities to 20, its international division opened, and sales almost tripled to $1.7 billion, according to a statement on the company’s website.
He showed pride as well in the Turner School of Construction Management, formed in 1969 to support minority- and women-owned businesses seeking to become project partners and subcontractors.
Peter Davoren, Turner Construction’s current president and CEO, said today in an interview that he met with Turner at least once a year over lunch through 2011.
“He’d ask very pointed questions, like, ‘How many employees did you hire this year? How many universities and colleges did you go to? What is the breakdown of diversity now, how many people of color and women?’” Davoren said. “Never once did he ask us how much money we made. He talked about those softer things that make a business great.”
Prominent construction projects undertaken during Turner’s tenure include the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston; PepsiCo Inc.’s world headquarters in Purchase, New York; the Mei Foo Sun Chuen apartment complex in Hong Kong; and Aon Center in Chicago, formerly called the Standard Oil Building.
He became company president, succeeding his cousin, H.C. Turner Jr., as the firm was embarking on a joint venture with Del E. Webb Corp. to build a new Madison Square Garden above Pennsylvania Station in midtown Manhattan. The arena opened in 1968. Today, Turner Construction is managing a three-stage renovation of the Garden, due for completion in 2013.
Howard Sinclair Turner was born on Nov. 27, 1911, in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. His father, J. Archer Turner, served as Turner Construction president from 1941 to 1946; his uncle, Henry Turner -- Archer’s older brother -- founded the company in 1902.
Turner earned his undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania in 1933 and a doctorate in organic chemistry and chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge in 1936.
He worked at DuPont Co. in Wilmington, Delaware, as a research chemist, developing nylon for military and civilian uses, such as parachutes. He directed research and development at Pittsburgh Consolidation Coal Co., then was vice president for research and development at Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. from 1954 to 1965.
His wife, the former Katharine Swett, died in 2003. He is survived by their three daughters, Susan Turner of Boston, Holly Turner of Edmonton, Canada, and Barbara Jean Turner of San Antonio, according to a company statement.
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