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Ronald Oakley ‘68

What does building upon a foundation look like? Both literally and academically? For Ronald Oakley ‘68, his successful Engineering and Construction (E&C) career all started because of the curriculum and mentoring at HRA. He started out as an estimator and worked his way up to Chairman of the Board and it all started at HRA.
When he started at HRA in eighth grade, Ron admits that he wasn’t paying much attention at the time, but the curriculum gave him the fundamentals in science, math, English, French and even sports, that would get him through Clemson University and a degree from the College of Architecture. Throughout his career, his teachers at HRA, such as Col. Dick for science, Mr. Layne for math, Mr. Spoor for English and Ms. Hatcher for French and Mr. Worthington instilled lessons that only grew after graduation. 

After graduating with a BS in Building Construction (architecture and civil engineering), his first job was as an entry level estimator for a construction company in Washington, D.C. with one of his first estimates being the I.M. Pei designed East Wing of the National Gallery of Art. Shortly after, they won the project he was asked to be the site engineer, for which he was responsible for all of the architectural concrete, marble and all the specialty finishes. Next was working for The Architect of the Capitol in the construction of the Madison Memorial Library and other U.S. Capitol programs. Following that, he built custom homes and then entered the world of industrial and heavy construction, where he began to rise through the ranks. Just to name a few of the businesses that he completed projects for were Intel, GM, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Disney, Pfizer, The London Underground, Kansai Airport in Osaka Bay, Hyatt Hotels, Department of Energy and other unique clients/projects.

Ron worked his way from project support roles, to project manager, to leadership roles in sales, to operations and executive management at Fluor Corporation. After 24 years at Fluor, his final deal was securing a coalition rebuild proposal that reached Prime Minister Blair’s Camp David meeting with President Bush (43) that ultimately led to some nice projects with their British partner. Following Fluor, he held President and CEO roles at three top 20 global E&C companies. He is currently Chairman of The Branch Group headquartered in Roanoke, VA. Ron also serves on the Board of Directors of two other E&C firms where he shares his experiences to help the next generation improve shareholder values. 

The architecture, engineering and construction business has been so rewarding because he was able to take ideas, turn them into reality, and provide benefits on a global level. Throughout his journey, he applied the skills he learned at HRA, which led to personal and professional success. The science and math classes gave him the problem solving skills to understand engineering and business challenges; The English (composition) courses provided him the communication skills to write proposals that won a lot of work; Taking “proper” French aided him years later during a particular negotiation with a French company; Even his participation in sports at HRA helped him recognize how to be part of a team as well as what it took to be a good leader! 

Ron says that he’s had a blast in his journey in this fantastic business/profession and has included his family frequently in his travels internationally. He and his wife, Carole, have three children and four grandchildren that they are very proud of. He says “The engineering and construction business has been, and still is, a great source of pride for me - second only to my growing family.”
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