The firm was an industry pioneer in employee-friendly initiatives such as onsite child care and, through Kennedy, "nurtured a culture of innovation, both technical and management," says an industry group. Kennedy also was an early advocate of advancing women in construction crafts and management, and of a drug-free workplace.

Kennedy also sought change beyond BE&K's offices and jobsites, advocating for improved industry productivity, ethics and safety and value-added for contractors. "We are treated like porkbellies because we have allowed ourselves to be treated as a commodity," he said in a 1989 ENR article.

Kennedy took leadership roles as national president of the open-shop Associated Builders and Contractors and in creating the first nationally standardized open-shop craft-training and certification program.

Kennedy also reached out farther, helping found the research-focused Construction Industry Institute at the University of Texas, and as an active construction advocate with owner groups The Business Roundtable and Construction Users Roundtable (CURT).

"Ted was a creative thinker and a visionary who was frequently sought after for his advice and counsel," says CURT Executive Vice President Greg Sizemore. "While CURT has no preference as to the labor posture of its members, he was often invited to speak alongside organized labor leaders who respected him as a man and industry leader."

Sean McGarvey, president of the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Dept., told ENR: "I always appreciated the spirited discussions I had with Ted in regard to the workforce development challenges faced by our industry,"

Kennedy received numerous industry awards, including election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1999. He later was elected chair of its civil engineering section.

Kennedy also was the inspiration and namesake for a new award by the National Academy of Construction, a group of design and construction leaders recognized for their industry contributions. The Ted C. Kennedy Award, which Kennedy himself was the first to receive in 2011, will be presented to future leaders who demonstrate "exemplary service" to the industry, says the group.