On April 9, Stan Marek, CEO of Marek, was inducted into Texas A&M University’s Constructor Hall of Fame. I had the honor of introducing him with this tribute:
My name is Pat Kiley, and I want to thank Joe Horlen and Mike Holland for the very high honor of presenting this award tonight because this year’s recipient epitomizes the very best of what it means to be a builder, a leader, an Aggie, and a humanitarian. He is a man with clear priorities: family and faith; his company and his people; his Industry and this Institution; his community and his Country, and those less fortunate.
He heard and embraced the scriptural passages, “To whom much is given, much is expected” and“You cannot hide your talent under a bushel.” He runs his life with a sense of duty; duty not as heavy burden, but duty as sacred honor. Also duty in the sense that Churchill meant in his exhortation to the English people on the night before the Nazi invasion, when he said. “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty and bear ourselves…” – duty that makes you stand and be counted.
There are numerous reasons that he deserves this award, but let me mention three:
First, he has built one of the most respected construction organizations in the country. He and his cousins inherited from their fathers a mid-rise company, with a very deep value foundation, one aimed primarily at residential, and he and his team have turned it into a towering skyscraper aimed primarily at commercial. He has done it by attracting the very finest leaders, some of whom are here tonight, Mike Holland, John Hinson, and Brendan Doyle, and by attracting the very best craftsman, as well. He has done this by innovative human resources practices and by investing in training and development in both good times and bad. He has also done it by ensuring that his company always uses the very best, proven means and methods of construction, as well as the very best materials and by always executing with the highest quality and reliability. As a result, he has attracted the very best general contractors in Texas and the Atlanta area as clients, and his company is always the preferred specialty contractor on large and complex jobs.
Second, he is extremely, but quietly, generous. His DNA is imprinted with the model of turning struggle into strength. His grandfather, John, a master carpenter who worked on some of the finest castles in Europe, left Olomouc, Czechoslovakia, and moved his family to a farm in Yoakum, Texas, to escape the growing tyranny of the Hapsburg Dynasty. His dad and two uncles, when the family farm was lost in the depression, were homeless. They lived in their car and hung sheetrock for 3 or 4 cents a foot. Now this experience could leave some shattered and bitter, but it left these brothers stronger and better, and committed to help those in similar circumstances. They truly aimed their philanthropy at the Biblical expression, “the least of my brethren”, those displaced and discarded by society: homeless, addicted women with children, many of whom also have AIDS. Our honoree and his family have built the “Bonita House of Hope”, a 108 bed in-patient facility where yesterday afternoon, 92 adults and 87 children were getting a new lease on life. They are also major supporters of the “Work Faith Connection” where those down and out- people who have been incarcerated or recovering from addiction-can establish a spiritual foundation, learn interviewing skills, return to work, and regain a chance at a meaningful life. Then, in addition, he funds scholarships, several of the recipients are attending Texas A&M, but always in someone else’s name. I am the lucky beneficiary of one of those.
Finally, he is the most committed and passionate advocate for our industry’s many, and often embarrassing, workforce challenges. There is an historic expression, “Cometh the Hour; Cometh the Man.” Well the hour came for the commercial construction industry in Texas about 5 years ago, as our industry, along with most American industries, was recovering from being kneecapped by the always lethal combination of arrogance and incompetence from the “Wall Street Wizards.” As people looked at the amount of work ahead for both the commercial and industrial markets, it was evident that there would be a major workforce shortage without substantive change. Craft training had been basically neglected for the past generation; much of the commercial workforce, though having all the required papers for the employer, were really here illegally; there were several people skirting the law on the payment of overtime and withholding taxes by misclassifying their workers, and there were outright abuses of these vulnerable people, cheating or defrauding them out of their pay. And so this man came! He unleashed a series of initiatives, using his time, talent and treasure. He intensified his efforts for comprehensive immigration reform, forming new advocacy groups to lobby: creating coalitions, commissioning scholarly research and travelling to Austin and Washington to meet with legislators, including the Texas Delegation, the Secretary of Labor and the Speaker of the House. He also joined with Mike Holland and Jerry Nevlud of the Houston AGC and three other Aggies, Bill Scott (Linbeck), Jim Stevenson (McCarthy) and Tom Vaughn (Vaughn) to launch C3, theConstruction Career Collaborative, aimed at restoring construction craftwork as a viable career option, where people can feed their families and have pride in their work. And he began to call out the real abusers – the cheaters and the frauds, people that regrettably carry the title “contractor” too. Predictably, he is catching flack for his efforts. Many people are making money under this broken system and do not want any changes. But he moves forward with renewed energy. He truly is “Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena”, that great quote that begins, “It is not the critic who counts” and goes on to state, “the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who strives valiantly, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who errs and comes short again and again” and ends with those sobering words, “if he does fail, he will do so by daring greatly, so that his place will never lie with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” The jury is still out on whether these initiatives will be successful, but this man that we honor tonight is truly, “in the arena,” and many others of us need to suit out and join him there.
In the western novels of the late writer, Louis L’Amour, which our honoree devoured, the highest compliment that could go to a cowboy was that, “he rode for the brand.” Well our recipient tonight rides for many brands, his family and his faith; his company and his people; his industry and this institution, Texas A&M; his community and his country; and social justice for those less fortunate. And his brand going on this award, expands and elevates it. The Constructor Hall of Fame Award this year goes to Stan Marek.