Howland, known for his consensus style of management and dedication to employees and community, died August 28 at his home in Corvallis, Oregon. He was 92.
Mr. Howland served as the general manager of the engineering firm Cornell, Howland, Hayes, and Merryfield almost since its inception in 1946. After the firm incorporated in 1966, Howland became president, a position he held through 1974.
"I guess about every year I offered to (step down) ... and every year they said, 'Well, why don't you do it for another year,'" Howland said in a 1984 oral history describing his long tenure at the helm.
The Oregon native helped calibrate the firm's moral compass and has long been described as the soul of CH2M HILL. Mr. Howland was chairman of the board from 1974 to 1977. A year later, he published a pocket-sized booklet called Management Quotations from Chairman Jim, which was renamed the Little Yellow Book because of its cover. It is CH2M HILL's cultural anchor and has been in print continuously for 30 years. The Little Yellow Book, which today is available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Russian and Arabic, provides brief messages on people, organization, ethics and communication, such as this excerpt:
"Integrity is the all-important prerequisite to employment. The person must be honest with himself and others or we have no foundation on which to build."
The book has been given to thousands of employees and is featured along the banks of the Willamette River in Corvallis, where quotations from the book are displayed on plaques at Howland Plaza. The plaza was built in 2003 and honors Jim and his wife, Ruth "Meisy" Howland; the couple volunteered tirelessly for the community.
"Jim Howland is one of those remarkable people who has enriched so many lives -- in so many ways -- that it becomes nearly impossible to keep track of all the good things he's done," said CH2M HILL Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ralph R. Peterson.
In the 1930s at Oregon State College in Corvallis (now Oregon State University), Mr. Howland met his future partners -- Burke Hayes, Holly Cornell and Professor Fred Merryfield. It's where the first discussions took place about opening an engineering firm.
After receiving his bachelor's in civil engineering and a Tau Beta Pi fellowship, Mr. Howland earned a master's degree in civil engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He married Ruth Meisenhelder in 1941.
In the spring of 1944, Capt. Howland was deployed to Saipan where he was in charge of the planning effort to build the island's military infrastructure, including hospitals, airfields and water systems. He received the Legion of Merit for World War II Pacific Theater Service.
As the war was winding down, the four partners-to-be finalized plans to launch Cornell, Howland, Hayes and Merryfield, a naming convention that was later shortened to CH2M, which is based on the order in which the former students returned from the war.
After retirement from full-time work in 1982, Mr. Howland was appointed by Governor Victor G. Atiyeh to the Oregon Water Resources Board, where he served from 1986 to 1994. Mr. Howland also continued to work with CH2M HILL when it partnered with the National League of Cities to fund an award program for municipal enrichment. The program recognizes communities that, through policies and planning, preserve and enrich the quality of life. The award program was named in Mr. Howland's honor, and he was actively involved in the program for several years.
Mr. Howland was a supporter of OSU's student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers for more than 60 years and regularly gave talks to the students. He received the university's Distinguished Service Award and the Alumni Associations' E.B. Lemon Distinguished Alumnus Award. The American Society of Civil Engineers honored him with the John I. Parcel-Leif J. Sverdrup Engineering Management Award in 1984.
Mr. Howland is survived by his wife, Meisy, three sons, Mark, Peter, and Eric, daughter Joyce and daughter-in-law Julie Shaull. He also is survived by five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. A memorial service for Mr. Howland will be held at Corvallis First Presbyterian Church at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9, with a reception at the CH2M HILL OSU Alumni Center from 3 - 5 p.m.
Today, CH2M HILL is an entirely employee-owned firm with more than 25,000 employees and gross revenues of nearly $6 billion. The firm Mr. Howland started in 1946 has delivered projects in 131 countries and on every continent. A CH2M HILL website dedicated to Mr. Howland can be viewed at www.jimhowland.net
Headquartered in Denver, Colo., employee-owned CH2M HILL is a global leader in engineering, procurement, construction, management and operations for government, civil, industrial and energy clients. With more than $5 billion in revenue and 24,000 employees, CH2M HILL is an industry-leading program management, construction management and design firm, as ranked by Engineering News-Record (2008). The firm's work is concentrated in the areas of energy, water, transportation, environmental, nuclear and industrial facilities. The firm has long been recognized as a most-admired company and leading employer, including being named by FORTUNE as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For and one of America's Most Admired Companies (2008). Visit www.ch2mhill.com.
Contact: John Corsi Phone: 720-286-2087 E-Mail: Email Contact