Former Bechtel CEO and chairman Stephen Bechtel Jr. dies at 95

Steven Bechtel Jr. is seen in 1983 during a visit to one of the company’s job sites. (Courtesy Bechtel)

Reston, Virginia-based Bechtel, nation’s largest and one of the oldest construction, engineering and project management companies, has announced former chairman and CEO Stephen D. Bechtel Jr. died peacefully at his home in San Francisco on March 15.

He was the third-generation CEO of the company. His grandfather, Warren Bechtel, founded the company in 1898.

Stephen Bechtel Jr. led the company from 1960 to 1990 and is credited with growing sales 11-fold and its employees five-fold. He oversaw 119 major projects during his tenure.

Among large projects completed by the company during his leadership were the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in San Francisco, the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France, North Sea oil and gas platforms, many nuclear power plants and the King Khalid International Airport in Saudi Arabia.

“My grandfather leaves behind a remarkable legacy of accomplishment, integrity, excellence and commitment to customers and communities,” said Bechtel CEO and Chairman Brendan Bechtel. “In every aspect of his life, he was driven by his strong values and a vision for helping to build a better world, which continue to guide us in partnering with customers today.”

Stephen Bechtel Jr. was born May 10, 1925 in Oakland, California, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after high school graduation and earned a civil engineering degree from Purdue University. He began as a field engineer and became CEO at age 35. He was succeeded by his son Riley in 1990 and later his grandson Brendan in 2016, and continued to serve on the company’s board through 2018.

He also served on the boards of several companies, served as chairman of the National Academy of Engineering in the 1980s, and in 1980 received the Hoover Medal, which honors the civic and humanitarian achievements of engineers.

Stephen Bechtel Jr. also served on six presidential commissions for three U.S. presidents. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush awarded him the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Bechtel has completed more than 25,000 projects in 160 countries since its founding.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up