Dick Teater

For his outstanding leadership in one of the world's largest engineering and construction firms, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Dick Teater.

Group President, Power and Government
Fluor Daniel Inc.
MSCE '73


On influences at Purdue

I recall Bob Lee as a great teacher-he was superb at transferring knowledge from his side of the desk to our side of the desk. I have always admired people who can do that. Professor Tse at the Krannert School of Management was a real practical accounting and finance instructor who taught an earthy, nuts-and-bolts class. Professor Don Hancher, my adviser, was a bit of a character who brought some levity and fun to the atmosphere. He taught some of the practical cost- and planning-type courses for construction. I also remember Harold Michael, who taught urban planning. From him I learned the value of bringing constituents and stakeholders together on issues. In today's world, this is a very valuable skill.

On his career plans as a student

I was a naval officer at the time I attended Purdue, and I imagined a lifelong career in the military. But the whole experience of going to Purdue and studying there gave me a view of the civilian world, which I hadn't had since high school, and planted the seed of thought that I'd like to experience the other side. When I got back to my Navy duties after graduating from Purdue, that seed began to germinate. Did I imagine where my career was going? No, it's always been a surprise, but frankly I like surprises. I have thrived on the fact that things are going to change.

On his career

I sponsor five operating companies and an engineering office that are targeted on providing services to the electric power industry and federal government. We do power plants womb to tomb: design them, build them, start them up, operate them, and maintain them. We work with clients that need any one or all of those services: electric utilities, industrial customers, independent power suppliers. On the government side, we're involved in the cleanup of major nuclear weapons reservations. We're the site contractor for the Department of Energy's Fernald site near Cincinnati and the prime contractor at the Hanford site in Washington.

My career has taken me to all seven continents. I've seen cultures and engineering practices in a wide range of settings, and that has had a tremendous impact on the way I see things.

I'm a people person: I like to develop teams and accomplish things as a team. I've found this industry to be very rewarding in that regard. We get to leave things on the landscape that weren't there before. It's a great feeling to go back and say, "I was here. This is what we left behind."

On career influences

I have always had the benefit of having sponsors or mentors along the way in my career. The role that those people played was important to me. When you don't have those influences, I think you are handicapped.

I have frequently found myself in the frying pan if not the fire. Those are tremendous learning and growing experiences. People who have had it safe and secure throughout their lives find change difficult, and threatening.

For example, as a young Seabee officer, I had a detachment of 20-odd people on a remote island in the Caribbean, and I was the officer in charge. I was less than a year out of school, I was the youngest person on the job, and I did not have a seasoned NCO as my number two-so I was challenged. You never knew what was on the agenda of those 20 guys at any point in time. There were technical and social challenges-and I had no phone line to my boss and nobody there to lean on.

More recently, with a project last year, an investigative reporter proceeded to barrage our company with negative press commentary on the front page of the local newspaper day after day, week after week. The suggestion was that we were fraudulent, unsafe, and unfairly treating our employees. We answered all the questions that were raised and reassured all the governmental constituents concerned. As a result, the client had the confidence to award us a much larger project.

I consider challenges or crises opportunities. If you consider the symbol for crisis in Chinese, it's actually two symbols: one for danger and one for opportunity. My experiences reinforce that.

On engineering education

Today more than ever, engineering education must connect the theoretical to the real. In days past, large companies could take people on in an apprenticeship role. There's no margin in business for that now: employees have to be productive the day they walk in the door. Students need practical exposure during the educational process and also an integration of disciplines. In my era, you could study civil engineering and be content with that as an isolated specialty. Today you must know how to integrate many different disciplines and take into account social factors, environmental factors, and economic factors. When you design something, you can't do it in isolation.


1995:
Received Purdue's Civil Engineering Achievement Award.
1994-:
Group President, Power and Government, Fluor Daniel Inc. Responsibility over five operating companies and an engineering office network across the U.S. Fluor Daniel Inc. is the engineering, construction, maintenance and technical services unit of Fluor Corporation, an international engineering, construction, maintenance, and diversified services company.
1993-94:
President, Power.
1990:
Vice President, Power Marketing.
1988:
Vice President, Industrial Marketing.
1987:
General Manager, Marketing Support Group.
1986:
Director, Aerospace Sales, Fluor Engineers.
1984:
Vice President, Sales, Fluor China.
1981:
Manager, Business Development, Fluor Australia.
1980:
Principal Marketing Coordinator, Fluor Engineers Inc.
1977-80:
Project Manager, Holmes & Narver Inc.
1970-77:
Commissioned officer, U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps. Served with Seabees in Puerto Rico, Diego Garcia, Thailand, and Rhode Island. Awarded Navy Achievement Medal.

BS '70, U.S. Naval Academy; MSE '73 Purdue