W. Richard "Rick" Conner

President, Chief Operating Officer, Majority Owner,
American Structurepoint, Inc.
BSCE '76

For his innovative initiatives, dedication, and wise risk-taking in more than 35 years spent expanding Structurepoint's design/build work and technology services internationally

Willis “Rick” Conner has been a builder in every sense of the word. With a clear idea of what he wanted to do early in life, the Indianapolis native began building his career at age 16 as an apprentice drafter, blueprint boy and deliveryman where his dad did business, American Consulting Engineers. The company would later be called American Structurepoint, and he would eventually become its president and chief operating officer, growing company revenues twentyfold.

After working summers throughout college, Conner had nearly six years with the company when he earned his BS in civil engineering and went to work full time as a structural engineer in the Bridge Group. His first major success was S.R. 912, an elevated expressway in East Chicago, later followed by his appointment as interim head of the Architecture Group, and subsequent naming as president. Since he became principal owner in 1987, the company has grown from 46 employees to 375, and revenues from project opportunities in 35 states and five countries have soared from $3 million to over $65 million.

Conner says his years at Purdue taught him much more than how to be a good civil engineer.

"Purdue taught me how to be a good technician," he says, "but I think the more valuable lesson was the ability to think and use deductive reasoning whether I'm dealing with people problems or engineering problems."

Clearly able to overcome problems and outdo the competition, Conner has won numerous awards and Engineering New-Record has recognized his company as a Top 500 engineering firm for 19 straight years. It also was named the No. 1 Indiana design firm by Midwest Construction magazine, and in 2011, Roads & Bridges cited two of American Structurepoint's projects in its Top 10 roads in the nation.

Despite the demands on his time, Conner gives back as a member of the Civil Engineering Industrial Advisory Council and a tireless Purdue advocate among prospective Purdue students.

"I run across high school students all the time," he says. "I take them on a tour of Bowen Lab and to a football or basketball game. We have a strong outreach effort."

In the end, he says, it's about direction, planning and dedication.

"Purdue also taught me to work hard. You better work hard, plan, and know where you're going. In business, it's no different. People who work the hardest and get things done, get more assigned to them. With that work ethic, you excel."

Career Highlights

1987-present President, Chief Operating Officer, Majority Owner, American Structurepoint, Inc.
1986–1987 Vice President, Interim Head, Architecture Group, American Structurepoint
1983–1987 Vice President, Structural Group Leader, American Structurepoint
1976–1983 Structural Engineer, Bridge Group, American Structurepoint
1976 BSCE, Purdue University