Construction veteran C. Terry Dooley, founder of the ACE Mentor Program affiliate in Los Angeles, died Sept. 27 at age 90. The civil engineer was named ENR California’s Legacy Award winner in 2017.

Since Dooley formed the program in 2002, more than 1,500 students in 27 high schools have enrolled in the program, which exposes them to careers in architecture, construction and engineering through team mentoring by volunteer practitioners. The group, now known as ACE Mentor Los Angeles/Orange Counties, has awarded over $1.4 million worth of college scholarships to date.

"Terry is a silent hero," says Anne Ettley, the program's executive director. "His large footprints will be left unfilled and his legacy will live on forever. We will greatly miss his kind spirit and giving heart."

In the ENR Legacy Award profile, Steve Smith, a senior vice president of contractor Hathaway Dinwiddie and ACE’s volunteer treasurer since the group’s inception, said of Dooley's efforts: “Terry is always looking out for the underdog.”

Dooley started ACE at age 72, immediately after completion of his pinnacle construction project—the base-isolated Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels that was built to sail through a magnitude-7.1 earthquake with barely a scratch, in large part thanks to his work.

Something Remarkable 

He led that job for Morley Builders, where he worked from 1981 until 2002, mostly in business development.

“From the first time you meet Terry, you know there is something remarkable about him,” said the semi-retired Bert Lewitt, Morley's chairman of the board, also at the time of the ENR Legacy Award profile. “He’s an incredible all-around person and is always interested in being helpful.”

A practicing Catholic, Dooley was so committed to the notion of the cathedral as a seismic Noah’s ark that he delayed retirement from Morley to lead the project.

“The level of enthusiasm for the success of the job is unequaled in my 40-plus years of construction experience,” said Dooley at the time of the project.

Born in Hammond, Ind., Dooley spent much of his childhood in South Bend. He received a B.A. in liberal arts from St. John’s University - Minnesota in 1951. Dooley completed his B.S. in Civil Engineering in 1954. He then relocated to the West Coast, where he worked for Bethlehem Steel’s construction divisions. Among other projects, he was involved in the erection of bridges in California and the Pacific Northwest. In 1969, Dooley received his master of engineering degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.

The civil engineer was committed to advancing seismic design. He helped pioneer seismic construction technologies with the building of the earliest ductile moment-resisting space frames, in reinforced concrete, in Los Angeles.

Dooley was a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers and co-winner of its 1991 Awards for Innovation in Civil Engineering, for Rockwell Building 80. An honorary member of the American Concrete Institute, he received its Corbetta Award for “contributions to the advancement of construction techniques in seismic repair and retrofit."

He was also an honorary member of the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California. As a member of the board of directors of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, he chaired its construction industries committee.

Dooley was a lifelong humanitarian. One example of his many causes was his work, in the 1960s, with the Fair Housing Council of the San Fernando Valley. In 1965, Dooley was one of thousands of civil rights demonstrators who participated during the final day in Montgomery, Ala., of a march from Selma, led by Martin Luther King Jr. 

In 1977, as an acknowledgment of his good works, Dooley received a certificate of merit for outstanding volunteer service from the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission.