It’s been more than three decades since Tom Iseley moved to Louisiana and joined the Purdue University faculty, but he’ll never forget his first meeting with Vic Weston.
Iseley was leading a research program at Purdue for the state Department of Transportation, which wanted to know more about how to put pipes under roadways without digging ditches. About 40 contractors from companies across the country responded to Iseley’s call for industry support, but Vic Weston had bigger things in mind.
“At that first meeting we had in 1987, Vic told me about a vision he had,” recalled Iseley, who later became director of Louisiana Tech University’s Trenchless Technology Center (TTC). “That vision had to do with how an organization like the AGC (Associated General Contractors) could work with the licensing board in putting together a program that can provide millions of dollars of support for construction education in our state.”
His determination to make that vision a reality has made Weston a role model for collaboration between industry and academia. And his commitment to both was a key factor in his selection as the 2018 Most Valuable Industry Professional. The award is presented annually by Underground Construction magazine and the Underground Construction Technology Association (UCTA).
Advocate for Education
Weston is president and owner of Tri-State Road Boring Inc., a general contracting firm he founded in 1975, specializing in highway drainage and casings, the heavy industrial sector for petrochemical companies, and micro-tunneling and directional drilling throughout the Gulf South states.
Weston’s advocacy for strong industry-university relations began with his appointment to the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors, which was created in 1956 to protect the general public and promote the integrity of the construction industry. The board, which receives no public funds, includes 15 commercial members appointed by the Governor to represent all segments of the contracting industry, along with five Residential Subcommittee members.
Weston embraced his role on the Licensing Board and the opportunities it provided to give back to his industry and community. He organized regular meetings with Louisiana university leaders to help them align student and workforce development programs with the needs of the construction industry, and he shared his vision of a collaborative future.
“Those meetings were most beneficial to me and other higher-education leaders, as we gained regular insight and saw the strong support that could be provided. Vic Weston was always in the center of these discussions and he was always both encouraging and challenging to achieve higher levels,” said Louisiana Tech President Les Guice.
“Vic played a major leadership role in generating millions of dollars of construction industry support for construction education,” Guice said, adding that Weston helped build support to establish TTC and bring leading construction industry speakers to Louisiana, often escorting them to universities, so students could meet and learn from national experts. “I am most grateful for all that he has done to help our entire State.”
Weston has served on the AGC of Louisiana board of directors for 20 years, including a year as the organization’s state president. His years of active participation in AGC of America includes service on both the national executive committee and the executive board, and he represents AGC on the board of the Common Ground Alliance. He also has been inducted into the Louisiana State University Construction School Hall of Honor.
Call for Industry Support
Weston accepted the MVP award during a luncheon in his honor at the 2018 Underground Construction Technology International Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans. He used the opportunity to underscore the financial challenges facing educational institutions and urged the audience of industry professionals to help.
“Louisiana goes through financial ups and downs like other states, and higher education has taken a big hit during the economic downturn,” Weston said. “Over the past seven years, Louisiana universities have lost 43 percent of their state funding, and the educational programs that benefit our industry need our support.”
In fact, Weston helped create the Contractors Educational Trust Fund (CETF) to protect a $6 million budget surplus at the industry-funded Licensing Board. He gives credit for the idea to his wife, Joy, who sensed he was upset and asked what was wrong. “The governor is going to take our surplus,” he told her. She replied, “Why don’t you beat him to the punch?”
After enlisting the support of a Louisiana AGC lobbyist, Weston said, “We went to the Legislature, and we got $4 million of that $6 million surplus to start CETF.” They convinced another state agency that manages an offshore industry fund to help endow chairs at four universities and provide professorships, scholarships and financial support to promote construction education throughout the state.
“By the time the sun set, we had given away $3.8 million,” Weston said, who remains actively involved as the Licensing Board and CETF continue to help Louisiana construction education programs get the resources they need. Some of the recent contributions include:
Nearly $200,000 in 2017 to Louisiana Tech’s Construction Engineering program and Trenchless Technology Center
More than $3 million to Louisiana State University and the LSU Foundation since CETF’s inception, including a substantial gift for a new Student Recruitment and Enrollment Center that opened last year
More than $362,000 to Louisiana Tech’s Construction Education Program in 2016$100,000 to the University of New Orleans College of Engineering in 2016 for teaching lab equipment and student scholarships $50,000 to the Baton Rouge Community College Foundation to support student instructional aids, equipment and faculty training for its Construction Management Program
“The annual MVP award recognizes individuals with long and exceptional records of industry achievement, but it’s reserved for those who also make a positive impact on their communities and the reputation of our industry. Vic Weston personifies the qualities of an industry MVP, and we’re honored to present him with this award,” said Robert Carpenter Editor in Chief of Underground Construction magazine.