Richard "Dick" Geary, who rose from a Kiewit Corp. highway project engineer in Oregon to president of the giant contractor's corporate unit that won and executed its signature I-15 design-build project in Utah in the 1990s, died on Oct. 19 in Lake Oswego, Ore. He was 79.

The cause of death was drowning after a heart attack and fall, according to a local news account posted on the Kiewit website.

Geary, known for what one online biography terms a "shrewd business mind," earned B.S. and M.S. engineering degrees with top honors from Stanford University. His 41-year career at Kiewit was capped by his elevation to president of Kiewit Pacific Co. and to corporate executive vice president. "Dick was directly responsible for building and managing projects with a cumulative value of several billion dollars [and] creating a diverse management background in transportation, dam, treatment-plant, commercial building and manufacturing projects," says the item.

He was instrumental in the Kiewit-led joint venture's successful 1997 win of the $1.3-billion reconstruction of I-15 through Salt Lake City that pioneered use of design-build. The contract also included 10 years of maintenance. The team was the low bidder out of three submitters and the only one to receive an "exceptional" rating, said ENR in a March 31, 1997, story.

Geary noted that the team had 20 employees already at work on project planning even before it won the contract, aiming "to hit the ground running" with the contract award.

Geary was "an industry architect of [the team's] successful work on I-15 that, ultimately, was a transportation project-delivery game changer in our nation," Thomas R. Warne, former head of Utah's transportation agency, told ENR on Nov. 3. "He was able to envision the power of Kiewit's success on I-15 and how it would forever impact transportation project delivery.”

The executive also was key to another major design-build win by Kieiwit, the $800-million San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor in Orange County, Calif.

Geary was a past chapter president of the Associated General Contractors and earned the Golden Beaver Award for management in 1999, a year after retiring. He remained a Kiewit director until 2007 and was a major supporter of educational institutions, non-profit groups and charities in the Northwest.

In a 2007 issue of Kieways, the contractor's internal publication, former Kiewit Chairman Kenneth Stinson said Geary "had a great deal of influence over the present shape of our contracting operations due to the people he hired, then trained and mentored to take on greater responsibility. Stinson said he was one of those mentees, having worked for Geary on projects in Oregon and Washington.