O P I N I O N
There are many ways to show courage, and Jerry Allen showed real courage in his willingness to confront every single obstacle in his life. Jerry Allen – true courage in leadership
I t’s easier to run an A/E business when you are the founder and have all or the majority of ownership of the business. But how about when you end up at the top of a nearly 50-year-old, well-established company with lots of partners, and you are just one of them? It’s much more challenging. And that is the story of the late Jerry Allen.
Jerry Allen passed away from cancer at the age of 62 in December of 2002. But between 1988 and 2002, he was the CEO of Carter & Burgess, Inc., a broad-based architecture and engineering firm founded in 1939 by Gene Carter and John Burgess, based in Fort Worth, Texas. During Jerry’s nearly 14 year tenure as CEO, the company grew from 187 employees to more than 3,000. It was eventually sold to Jacobs Engineering Group in 2007. I first spoke with Jerry Allen over the telephone in 1982 when I was doing some work for the firm as an executive search consultant. We then met in-person when I went to their Fort Worth headquarters in the winter of 1984/1985. I had been actively recruited to come to work for them by my one-time client when he was at another architecture and engineering firm, Russell Laird, who by 1984 was a newer partner in Carter & Burgess’ Houston office. Even though I was already an owner in another engineering firm in Memphis, Russell wore me down and I eventually flew to Fort Worth to meet a bunch of their
partners. Several months later, they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I went to work for them in Fort Worth as their director of human resources at the age of 27. Even though he was not my immediate supervisor (I reported to the then-President, Wilton Hammond), Jerry and I quickly struck up a relationship of mentor and mentee. We both worked later and would talk at the end of the day. He had just been named executive vice president and COO of the firm prior to my arrival there. Jerry was an extremely direct communicator and an outspoken advocate for change, in what at the time was a somewhat stodgy and conservatively managed firm overly dependent on the land development market, that was starting to encounter some problems from the real estate recession that started first in Houston and later spread to the DFW area. I will admit I was very impressed by the guy. He was, for all practical purposes, a self-made man.
See MARK ZWEIG, page 10
THE ZWEIG LETTER MARCH 8, 2021, ISSUE 1382
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