Stephen Bechtel, Jr.’s earliest memories were shaped by the power and scope of the Hoover Dam in the Nevada desert in 1931. He accompanied his father and grandfather on their inspection trips, as his father’s business, W. A. Bechtel Company of San Francisco, was one of the six companies contracted to oversee the engineering of the dam.
Bechtel, Jr. took over for his father as president of the company in 1960. During the following two decades, he was involved in constructing 40 percent of the nuclear plants in the U.S., and led the work on other megaprojects, including major airports in Saudi Arabia, the metro rail in Washington, D.C., and the underground Channel Tunnel connecting the U.K. and France.
In less than two decades, Bechtel, Jr. doubled the size of the organization and transformed Bechtel into a modern company. At its helm, he led the company through a new era in the U.S. where forces—environmentalism, globalism, economic upheaval, and intensified international competition—shaped his legacy and contributions to the field of engineering.
By Jen Santisi