Former Secretary of State and president of Bechtel, George P. Shultz, died Feb. 6 in California, at age 100. While he served as president of Bechtel from 1975 to 1982, the company completed the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, the Washington Metro subway, the Palo Alto nuclear power plant in Arizona, the cleanup of Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, and numerous projects in Saudi Arabia.
“Shultz joined Bechtel in 1974 at age 53 as executive vice president. By that time, he had served as senior economist to President Eisenhower and as secretary of labor and secretary of the treasury under President Nixon.
In 1980, Shultz led the reorganization of the company into three main divisions—Bechtel Power, Bechtel Petroleum, and Bechtel Civil & Minerals—according to the company.
We lost a great friend and trusted adviser with George’s passing,” said Brendan Bechtel, the company’s chairman and CEO in a statement. “George was a distinguished statesman, dedicated public servant and renowned economist. He was also an accomplished businessman who helped guide Bechtel’s global expansion and its development as a trusted engineering, construction and project management partner to industry and governments.”
As secretary of state from 1982-89 under President Ronald Reagan, Shultz worked intensively to improve relations with the Soviet Union and advocated that Reagan should seek a personal dialogue with Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The signing of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987 by the two leaders was a milestone in the history of the Cold War and a first step in reversing the nuclear arms race.
Caspar W. Weinberger, secretary of defense under Reagan, had previously served as vice president and general counsel at Bechtel and reported to Shultz.
As secretary of labor during the Nixon administration in 1969, Shultz imposed the “Philadelphia Plan” on contractors who refused to hire blacks. This was the first use of racial quotas by the federal government.
Under the plan, contractors were required to meet goals for hiring minority employees by specific dates to combat institutionalized discrimination by building trades unions. Contractors filed legal challenges to the plan, arguing it was inconsistent with the Civil Rights Act and the National Labor Relations Act. Those claims were rejected by federal courts.
In 1989, Shultz rejoined Bechtel as a director and served until 2006.
Riley Bechtel, former Bechtel Group chairman and CEO, in an emailed message, recalled that in about 1995, as the company began to develop the "Bechtel Leadership Model," he visited Shultz at Stanford "to ask him to share with me his view on excellent leadership."
Bechtel said, "He reflected for a few seconds and replied, 'It's been my experience that great leaders usually create and sustain an air of learning in whatever they do. They not only are always learning themselves, but they also inspire those around them to join them in collective learning.' "
Michael Bailey, Bechtel's general counsel, said of Shultz, "You always trusted him; he always took the time to help anyone who asked." He added, "George was increadibly smart but spoke in a very simple and non-technical way that was incredibly powerful."