Brick by brick, Dan Wheeler continues to make an imprint on the Chico State campus. As the regional vice president and general manager of Turner Construction Company, he helped build the Student Services Center in 2008–09. Currently, he is overseeing the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences building project on the other side of campus.
Wheeler (Construction Management, ’93) has had a monumental impact on the success of Turner Construction Company, which oversees approximately $900 million of annual work in place, recruited more than 140 full-time employees and 110 carpenters and laborers, and raises over $100,000 annually in charitable donations. He is a Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA)-certified professional who regularly teaches the Design-Build Done Right education course.
During his undergraduate years, he supported himself as a crane operator, helping construct Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. He sees students as the pipeline for today’s industry and engages with them at several events each year. This year, he celebrates 20 years of Chico State construction and engineering recruitment and three years as president of the Industrial Advisory Committee for the Construction Management Department. This month, he will be honored as the 2022 Distinguished Alumnus of the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management.
He lives with his wife, Julie, in Moraga and his son Daniel is a freshman at Boise State.
What impact did your time at Chico State have on your career?
The construction management faculty have always been made up of professionals from industry of practice—meaning they have practical experience outside of academia. I think that really contributes to the quality of instruction CM students at Chico State get; I know it greatly benefited me. The relationships I built with faculty like Lori Brown, Rovane Younger, Mac Reynolds, and Mike Borzage helped springboard me to where I am today.
A building is a building and a job site is a job site, but is it extra special working on projects at your alma mater?
Absolutely, Turner Construction was fortunate to build the Student Services Center building back in 2008–09. We haven’t been back on campus officially since that job was completed. To now be able to have this College of BSS project on campus means so much to me and our company. We recruit, interview, and hire a lot of Chico State students. With this project, we can catch up with students on a regular basis and they get to see what a real-world job of this magnitude looks like. I’m super excited to build the Butte Hall replacement building.
How has the commitment to sustainability (one of the University’s strategic priorities) changed the construction management industry over the last 10 years?
It’s a big deal and a priority on any project Turner Construction is involved in. We are the No. 1 green building contractor in the industry (Engineering News-Record 2021). It’s not only a strategic decision for us, it is the right thing to do for the planet. Zero net energy, meaning the facility produces the same or more energy than it consumes, is our goal with all new projects. We are proud to say the Butte Hall replacement will be zero net energy—to offer any less to Chico State would be unacceptable.
How do you “Do and Dare?”
To me, doing is being proactive in learning something new every day so you improve the process. Daring is not being afraid to challenge myself, and all our people to do just that. Whatever it may be, dare to leverage technology, to create a better environment. We must constantly dare to push ourselves to be better. I always say, “Be ready to change the industry.” The baton is continuously being passed to the next generation of professionals and they will be the ones who push their chosen fields forward.
What is your advice for today’s students or alumni just starting their careers?
I just returned from giving a keynote at an Associated Schools of Construction student competition with 1,200 soon-to-be graduates. My advice to anyone who is just starting their career—regardless of their chosen industry—is to find the right fit for you. Find a company with a culture that works for you, and take advantage of all the opportunities the company provides.
I also advise students to be ready to build relationships. If I’ve learned one thing in 28 years of professional experience, it’s the importance of actively caring and cultivating relationships with everyone, from a front-line laborer to a CEO.