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Construction Great Gene McGovern, 72, Dies

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Gene McGovern (left) rose to prominence when his construction management firm Lehrer/McGovern, started with Peter M. Lehrer (right), won the contract for the centennial restoration of the Statue of Liberty. ENR put the partners on the cover of the Sept. 6, 1984, issue. The two stood on the scaffold of the statue for the cover shot.
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Gene McGovern, co-founder of Lehrer/McGovern Inc., died on Jan. 22. He would have turned 73 on Jan. 29.

McGovern, at his death a construction consultant based in Boca Raton, Fla., started his career at construction giant Morse/Diesel Inc., where he met Peter M. Lehrer. In 1979, the two started Lehrer/McGovern. The construction manager was catapulted into the limelight after it landed the high-profile centennial restoration of the Statue of Liberty, which finished up in 1986.

“Gene had a persona that was really unique,” says Lehrer, currently a construction consultant. “Through it all, he had an incredible gift in terms of understanding how to solve problems, motivate people and get things done no matter how monumental.”

Bovis bought half of Lehrer/McGovern in 1986, renaming it Lehrer McGovern Bovis. LMB eventually became Lend Lease.

The partners left in the mid-1990s. Then, McGovern started a construction management firm called Jones/GMO. After that, he formed Pavarini McGovern, with his son Eric. Eric is currently president and CEO of Pavarini McGovern.

Down-to-earth McGovern—a man of few words who was a good listener—had a way with contractors and was adept at solving their disputes. He had a hands-on business philosophy, even when it came to hiring. “Once the principals remove themselves so that they don’t know the people in the company, the company loses its unique character,” he said in a Sept. 6, 1984, ENR cover profile on Lehrer/McGovern.

In addition to the Statue of Liberty restoration, McGovern was involved in some of the world’s most high-profile projects, including Euro Disney, London’s Canary Wharf and the twin Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At his death, McGovern was consulting on the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement in New York state.

McGovern, a driving force who expected a lot of others, was well respected in the industry. “I don’t think there’s ever been anyone like him in the past nor will there be anyone like him in the future,” says Lehrer. “He was an extraordinary person.”   



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