As ENR’s 53rd Award of Excellence winner Ron Klemencic tells it, he answered the phone on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2001, two days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and heard someone saying, “What are you going to do? This is Nadine Post from ENR. You’re the chairman of the tall buildings council. What are you going to do?”

Post, the ENR buildings editor who wrote this week’s Award of Excellence cover story (see p. 34), asked Klemencic, chairman and CEO of Magnusson Klemencic Associates Structural + Civil Engineers, about his plan to counter the strident voices blaming tall buildings—not the terrorists—for the death and destruction on 9/11.

The call inspired him to act. A month later, he convened a workshop of tall-building experts to consider the safety and security of tall buildings post 9/11. Afterward, Klemencic held a press conference to disseminate the experts’ opinions in an effort to calm a jittery public.

Klemencic calls the workshop and press conference—his first ever and one of many after 9/11—a milestone in his life. And he credits Post, the only journalist invited to sit in on the workshop itself, with inspiring him to act and forever altering his thinking. He also showed her his remarks for the press conference before the media arrived, and she advised, “ ‘Don’t bury the lead,’ ” he says. “Thanks to Nadine, in the course of 20 minutes, I changed my message and my delivery from thinking I was going to answer questions to staying on topic,” he adds.

Innovator Klemencic is receiving ENR’s top award for catalyzing an age of advancement in the design and construction of buildings through cooperative R&D. The engineer has become the “poster practitioner” for high-impact research through his pro bono work as a director of the Charles Pankow Foundation. The group funds public domain research initiatives for everyone’s benefit.

Earlier this year, Post—with members of ENR’s video team organized by Deputy Editor Tom Sawyer and including Luke Abaffy and Rehema Trimiew—traveled to San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago to interview Klemencic.

Before the interviews, Post reminded Klemencic of his opportunity to deliver a strong message. She needn’t have. He was ready to talk about his latest crusade—the formation of a broader-based research collective to fund transformation.