Building Blocks

Passing of Richard L. Foster


All of PKF was saddened to hear of the recent passing of Richard (Dick) L. Foster. His passing leaves a hole in the hearts of all of the PKF family, as well as in the heavy construction industry as a whole. It is helpful and encouraging for those of us who knew and worked with Dick, to recall his history in construction, his specific leadership in PKF, and his terrific family.

After growing up in Massachusetts, Dick attended and graduated from MIT and then spent time in the Air Force. After leaving the Air Force, he started his construction career with national and international contractor Peter Kiewit Sons, working on projects throughout the US and in Greenland. In 1966, Dick together with Peter Kiewit co-workers Bill Perkins and Al Kanak, founded PKF. As that company grew, in 1979 it ultimately became PKF-Mark III, and Dick was named President and then later, CEO. His leadership within PKF and our industry is legendary and a dramatic point of pride for all of the employees who worked under him. His integrity and commitment to “do what was right” remains the foundation of the company’s motto today – “Excellence Built on Integrity”. He led by example in so many ways. Key to PKF in those early years and continuing today, was an emphasis on measuring and knowing productivity/costs for each of a job’s operations, and adjusting to maximize the result. At the same time, safety was of greatest priority to Dick. A notable pet peeve of Dick’s that all jobs knew would be closely checked when he frequently walked through our jobsites, was the organization, orderliness and even cleanliness of the jobsite and office area. He expected all form bolts and nuts to be in bins and buckets, and not left in the dirt where they could be lost or a hazard. An organized and clean site was a safe and productive one in Dick’s mind. At the same time, he was unabashed in recognizing that PKF was in business to produce a profit for its shareholders. And so PKF grew and flourished under Dick’s leadership. So too did those who worked under Dick and were mentored by him.

Dick’s family was and is a big part of PKF’s history as well. Marilyn, his wife of sixty-three years, remains well known and much loved amongst the PKF family for her warmest of smiles, grace in all things, and sincere interest in hearing about the welfare of all employees and their families. Dick’s two sons each distinguished themselves well while working at PKF, Bruce in engineering and supervision early in his career, and Erik in engineering/supervision and at the company’s Revere, PA yard, all through his career.

In addition to having had the opportunity to learn from Dick in our office and at our jobsites, I was blessed to participate with and learn from him in various industry settings. His participation with the New Jersey Utility and Transportation Construction Industry Association (UTCA) and with the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) was exemplary of his leadership in the industry, and was notably personal and purposeful. Dick was a fervent supporter of topics and legislation important to our industry and to those that together pursued it with him. As Dick was finishing his years of participation in NUCA for example, he asked me to take over PKF’s spot for him in that organization. In the ensuing transition years, as we traveled to and participated in national meetings and events, I quickly recognized that Dick had no fear in telling local and even national politicians about a specific legislation’s importance in construction and our economy. Washington senators and congressmen valued his input but knew he would not hesitate in telling things like they were. One of my most memorable NUCA moments with Dick came at a time when, though having hailed from Massachusetts, Dick was in no way aligned with that state’s senator on political and construction issues. On that day, our NJ contingent was making the rounds in DC when at a hallway corner, Dick all but collided with Senator Kennedy. The awkward moment was much talked about thereafter by all of that contingent. Memorable for me too, were the industry icons that Dick and Marilyn had befriended through the years and who he introduced me to at events and dinners. They too enjoyed Dick’s enthusiasm and input on all things construction but also on all things relating to politics.

One other organization which bridged between PKF and Dick’s personal life, was the Boy Scouts. Dick loyally and enthusiastically supported that organization for many years, including inviting many of the home office staff to the annual fund raiser breakfast, where we enjoyed hearing Merrill Reese’s predictions for the Eagles for each upcoming season. We recall fondly his leadership in that realm, and that organization’s naming of a new dining facility at its local camp as the Richard and Marilyn Foster Hall.

Within PKF, the memories of Dick loom large, and his leadership is still present and felt in many of the realms in which we work. All of us who knew him are the better because of knowing him, and all of us who have worked for PKF, are the better because of the foundation on which he built and shaped it.


Glenn Ely