As a Department of Construction Management alumnus, Gordon Marks (’66) graduated from Colorado State University with a Bachelor of Science in construction management. He has been a regular supporter of the CM department, in particular the CM Cares program, which he has contributed to on an annual basis. In recent years, he’s been part of the Beaver’s Trust that funded the endowment for the heavy construction professorship. Even more recently, Marks and his wife, Joan, established a CM scholarship fund.
Upon graduating from CSU, Marks spent the majority of his career at Swinerton Builders, where he retired as CEO and chairman of the board. At Swinerton, Marks helped establish the company’s charitable foundation and was a champion for CSU, helping to direct Swinerton donations to the CM Cares service-learning program and other efforts to support construction management students – causes that the Marks have also personally supported with generous contributions for many years.
Career at Swinerton
Marks held various positions with Swinerton, over the years, including working in scheduling, estimating, field engineering, and project management. He credits the CM curriculum as being “instrumental in preparing me for all of these tasks.” In 1985, Marks became vice president and division manager for the San Francisco division of Swinerton. Then, in 1995, he became president and COO, retiring as CEO and board chairman in 2008. As Swinerton was a member of the Associated General Contractors of America, Marks served on the San Francisco AGC chapter board of directors and held the position of President. He was also a member of the Beavers, and CEA of Northern California.
Gordon and Joan Marks Scholarship
The Gordon and Joan Marks Scholarship was created to support students preparing for careers in the construction industry. The intent of the scholarship is to provide a multi-year scholarship to a pre-CM or construction management student, to support the student throughout their time in the program through graduation. The criteria for selection of the scholarship recipient includes: preference for a student who has overcome a personal or family challenge, and/or who is showing grit and determination in his or her pursuit of a college degree and career in the construction industry; full-time students in their sophomore, junior, and senior years; when all things are equal, preference shall be given to students with financial need.
When asked how they came to the decision of offering a CM scholarship, Marks said, “After many years of donating to the CM department, my wife and I decided that we wanted to make a more impactful contribution. I attributed my business success to the education I received at CSU, and I wanted to offer assistance to someone in need, so that they may have that same opportunity.” And, the desired outcome? “To have the student graduate, be successful in the construction industry, and hopefully be in a position to give back,” Marks said.
Practical advice for CM students
Marks also had good, practical advice for all CM students. “First of all, CM students must keep up and do well in the core CM classes,” he said. “As for electives, I would suggest they use any opportunity to take classes in leadership and practice leadership outside the classroom.” He went on to offer suggestions that he believes helped him succeed:
- “Time management is one of the keys to success. The construction industry is hard work and you will never have enough time to do everything you are asked or want to complete. Stay focused on the work that will actually make a difference. Prioritize. You will have to let some things slide.
- Following on this theme, life/work balance, in my mind, is key to success. Working 60- and 80-hour weeks will not help you succeed. With a balanced life you can make better decisions and work smarter. Take time to smell the roses and spend time with friends and family. Get involved with your community and volunteer with charities.
- Volunteer for assignments that nobody else wants to do. Never pass up an opportunity to take on a new challenge. You will learn new skills, and be noticed.
- Always be willing to help those around you. It will pay off in the future when you need help.
- Don’t worry about promotions – do your job and they will come.”
Joan Marks studied at CSU before transferring to the University of Colorado to earn her nursing degree, and spent her career as a nurse practitioner in women’s health, among the first in northern California. For over 20 years, she has been actively involved with the Alzheimer’s Association, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California.
The Marks are both now retired and reside in Sonoma, California. They enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren, traveling, and supporting charities meaningful to them, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco – where Marks served on the board for over 15 years, the Alzheimer’s Association, and local charities.
First Marks scholarship recipient
This year’s CM Gordon and Joan Marks Scholarship was awarded to Joshua Anderson, a junior from Michigan majoring in construction management.
“With all of the support from the donors,” said Anderson, “I will be able to get my bachelor’s degree, get a job, and give back to Colorado State University when I become successful. I am excited to be able to give back in the future and help someone in similar shoes as mine.
I grew up not having anyone to teach me life lessons or show me that I had value. I had to learn on my own what it meant to be responsible and to be a good citizen. I was thrilled to learn of my selection for this honor, and I am deeply appreciative of your support. With this scholarship I know I will be successful in my time at CSU.”