Partners and peers remember the humble leader with a passion for developing great builders and commitment to giving back to the industry
BELLEVUE, Wash. (May 11, 2017) – GLY Construction today announced founder Bob Landau died April 18 at age 93. His wife of 63 years, Betty, was at his side as he passed peacefully at Overlake Medical Center, in a wing built by his company.
“He was one of the last great gentlemen in the local construction community,” said Terry Deeny, longtime friend, retired founder of Deeny Construction and former national president of the Association of General Contractors of America (AGC).
Landau grew up in Alton, Illinois and served in WWII earning two purple hearts before receiving a degree in Civil Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. After several years working on projects in Alaska for St. Louis-based Patty McDonald Construction, he and fellow McDonald executive Harold Gall decided to make the Northwest their permanent home, forming Gall & Landau Construction in 1967. Frank N. Young joined the firm in 1974, when Gall retired after 42 years in the construction business, and it was renamed Gall Landau Young, in time transitioning to simply GLY.
The company’s first years were the Era of Major Rehabs Landau often said, completing restoration projects on several buildings in Pioneer Square. His meticulous building skills and experience with large public-sector projects also led to a series of jobs for the US Navy at the Trident Base in Bremerton and Federal HUD housing in Seattle. Landau’s expectations for fiscal excellence and sound risk management – principles that underpin the firm to this day – were met by the establishment of a strong tradition of continuous learning. He was a mentor and teacher, passing on his considerable knowledge and expertise in self-performing structural concrete work. One of Landau’s first hires was Fred Shoecraft, an African American carpenter apprentice. Under Landau’s mentorship, Shoecraft rose to a Superintendent position and worked for the company for 35 years before retiring in 2004.
“We are a learning organization, thanks to our bedrock value of continuous improvement, which springs from Bob Landau’s belief in limitless human potential,” GLY president Ted Herb said.
GLY CEO Jim Karambelas added that the firm’s culture of humility and commitment to its clients and community began with Landau, but he never took credit for the legacy he created.
Landau guided the company in delivering a diverse portfolio of projects until his retirement in 1979, but stayed connected to the company and to its mission of growing the next generation of leaders from within.
“Bob was retired by the time I joined in 1984,” said retired GLY VP Operations Bob Irwin, “but he remained present culturally and physically.”
When we’d tour a jobsite, he said, I was always amazed at his ability to pick out the details of great construction techniques as well as areas that could be improved with better planning and focus.
Landau kept active with community work post-retirement as well. He was a longtime contributor to the YMCA, and held many board positions. He was an influential industry supporter through the AGC of Washington, and instrumental in the creation of its Education Foundation in 1980.
“He believed in preparing young people for careers in the construction industry, and was passionate from the start,” said Adrienne Woods, the AGC Foundation’s Development and Marketing Coordinator. “He fought tirelessly for a foundation that almost didn’t exist due to a shortage of funding.”
Through the foundation, he and wife Betty established the Robert L. and Betty L. Landau Scholarship Endowment in 1990, which is designated to supporting construction management students at CWU, UW, and WSU into perpetuity. Dozens of students have been recipients of the award since its inception, and Landau loved face-to-face meetings with scholarship recipients whenever possible.
A 2015-2016 scholarship recipient thanked Landau in writing:
“If the AGC Education Foundation recognizes someone, it means that person can be a major contributor to the industry. I want to have a successful career within the industry, but also be successful with outreach and bringing the next generation of builders into the industry. I hope to become a prominent figure within the construction industry so one day I can be in the position you are, and read a letter from a student I helped. Thank you so much.”
The Landau’s also participated in the Education Foundation’s Legacy Society. Said Landau on including the Education Foundation in their estate planning, “The AGC Education Foundation, over a 30-year period, has proven that it can raise the education standards in all phases: high school, university, and those working in the field. Our industry, one of the nation’s largest, requires these efforts to provide a competitive and active industry. The construction industry needs this Foundation.”
“He was the most giving individual I ever met,” Landau’s former partner Frank N. Young said. “He was an outstanding person who wanted to give back to the community and the industry that made our success possible.”
Landau continued to attend Education Foundation Board of Trustees meetings into his nineties, and was not afraid to vocalize his passion for the industry at meetings.
“He asked poignant questions,” said Deeny. “His mind was razor sharp, and he had an ability to articulate his thoughts in a way that made everyone stop and want to listen. You just wanted to be around someone like that.”
Upon learning the news of Landau’s passing, Young said, “I could not have asked for a more caring and sharing partner in our years at Gall Landau Young. My wife Susan and I enjoyed a wonderful relationship with Bob and Betty, on the water boating for years here and into Canadian waters. He was a dear mentor and friend, and I will miss him greatly.”
Rooted in the Pacific Northwest culture of innovation and creativity, GLY is one of the most respected locally-owned general contractors, celebrating 50 years in 2017. Projects span a wide range of markets, and the firm is known for adapting thoughtfully and purposefully, building on a strong foundation of smart technology, integrated delivery, LEAN practices and responsible sustainability. Collaborative teams have a diverse skill set comprised of design, engineering, architecture, construction management and strong field technical capabilities. GLY is committed to offering every employee the opportunity to learn, grow and achieve their full potential.