In the cartography of human accomplishment, you’ll find ENR’s Top 25 Newsmakers in past years all over the map. I mean that literally and figuratively.
About 20 years ago, one Newsmaker was Helmut Cerovsek, a technical advisor at HNTB. He devised a structural solution to reuse an existing roof at a stadium in Indiana, making possible the addition of 3,000 seats. Two years later, ENR conferred the award for a far different stadium built for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Dimitris Kallitsantsis directed its design and construction under time and political pressure.
The subject matter ranges equally broadly. Nine years ago, Cristina Tzintzún, then executive director of the Workers Defense Project, was selected for her efforts to improve working conditions and pay for very low-income workers in Texas, most of them in construction and many of them undocumented immigrants. Just last year, clinical psychologist Sally Spencer-Thomas was a winner. She has made the construction industry, where up to five times more workers die by suicide than from jobsite accidents, the focus of her work.
ENR editors choose only one newsmaker to receive the magazine’s top honor, the Award of Excellence, but all are recognized at the awards luncheon, where each is invited to the podium to give a one-minute acceptance speech. It seems so brief, but recipients express passion for what they do, with thanks and credit to members of often large teams that they have collaborated with on the accomplishments.
What newsmakers say, and how they say it, shows pride in work, dedication to excellence, appreciation of colleagues, supporters and mentors, and sometimes, redemption for striving in relative obscurity on tasks and in roles to which they have devoted their work lives, or even entire careers.
Newsmaker awards range from recognizing technical excellence and innovation to seeing an important project or idea through to completion, exhibiting leadership or acting in the best interest of the construction industry, a community or society. It is more than simply industrial citizenship. It’s something closer to professional virtue. One thing it definitely is not is the simple striving to get to the top of the pay scale.
The qualities are very much a product of changing times and values. Climate change, for example, comes to mind for triggering the search for low-carbon construction facilities and processes—with several nominees related to that work this year and in the past. But there have also been accomplishments for furthering ethical practices, reversing injustice or solving a problem that contractors and engineers are uniquely qualified to do.
What appears plain is that noble, intrepid, public-spirited activity in the construction industry lives in many contexts and changes over time. As journalists, it is the role of ENR editors to link and highlight these inspiring events via recognition in our magazine, on our website and at celebratory events. We will see the newsmakers in New York City on April 13 to congratulate them in person. Join us.