Howard S. Turner, a noted research chemist and industrial manager who left a 29-year corporate career to join the family-run Turner Construction Co., New York City, as president, died on April 25 in Bryn Mawr, Pa. He was 100. As CEO and chairman, he was the last Turner family member to lead the firm.
Turner was tapped by his cousin—the son of H.C. Turner, who founded the contractor in 1902—to succeed him in 1965.
While he had been a board member since the 1950s, Turner noted in a 2002 company biography his surprise that he "terminate my successful career in Pittsburgh in favor of accepting his offer to move to New York and become president of Turner," a career change he admits he "never considered."
But the biography adds, Turner, who was "trained in science and weaned on the management styles of a couple of big and aggressive industrial corporations, knew the hazards of the status quo, and because he was unfettered by the mythology of construction tradtion, departure from the well-worn path traveled by his predecessors wasn't difficult. He brought to the company a sometimes controversial ethos."
Under his watch, Turner Construction grew to operations in 20 cities and launched an international division. When Turner retired as chairman in 1978, sales were $1.7 billion, says the firm.
But he told ENR in 1969 that neither turnkey construction nor real estate would be part of its portfolio.
Turner served on a Nixon administration science panel until it was dissolved when its members publicly disagreed with the president. Turner was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1983.
“I enjoyed visiting with Howard and providing him with updates on the progress of the company he led. He would question me and offer advice," says Peter J. Davoren, president and CEO of Turner since 2004.
"One of the best pieces of advice he provided was that when he was president, he felt the most important thing was to make Turner a great place to work."