William R. Tolley, American Concrete Institute Steady, calm leadership
The legend about Bill Tolley, ACI's executive vice president, is that he can write the minutes for a committee meeting before the meeting even starts, that's how well he knows his committee and the issues on the agenda. “You give them the information they need to make an informed decision,” he says, “but you also give them your opinion.” That, he feels, is the role of an association executive, to guide the members and to help them make the best decision for the future of the organization.
Tolley started as comptroller at ACI in 1975, having been hired by incoming executive vice president George Leyh, but actually starting a few months earlier than Leyh. Those were difficult days for the Institute, with membership dropping and reserves dangerously low. Within 10 years, through tight financial management and some tough decisions, they had turned a declining organization into a thriving powerhouse in the concrete industry with sufficient reserves to expand into risky programs, like certification—which today provides a large percentage of Institute revenues.
In 1996, when Leyh retired, the committee delegated to select a new leader and chose an executive vice president from the outside, which turned out to be a poor fit. In 2002, Tolley was elevated to executive vice president. Many of ACI's members and staff were ecstatic—despite the fact that Tolley is not an engineer and has little technical knowledge of concrete (a shortcoming he readily admits). However, his steady, calm leadership style fits ACI perfectly.
“Remember that the member comes first,” he says. “Set high standards and always strive to exceed member expectations.” Over the past four years, ACI has done that, and continues to do so with new ideas, like free electronic student memberships, a Concrete Knowledge Center to assist designers, and efforts to get things done in a more timely manner.
Looking to the future, Tolley says “ACI's role will remain much as it is today, which is to be one of the world's leading authorities on technical knowledge dealing with concrete, but we will deliver that information in different ways. We must and will take advantage of new technology to improve member benefits and reduce the time it takes to develop committee documents and standards without reducing the technical quality for which we are known. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but I am confident that ACI will respond and address the needs of the industry just as it has for the last 102 years.”
Tolley doesn't seek complete control over the Institute's operations—doesn't necessarily want to write the minutes in advance—but he does demand discipline and respect for the Institute's traditions. Those are expectations that most ACI members share.Luke Snell, Arizona State University A passion for teaching concrete
In 1986, Luke Snell, then a professor in the Construction Department at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (SIUE, where he taught for 27 years) brought his students to ACI's concrete cube competition as the reigning champs. The objective that year was to make the highest compressive strength cubes and the rules stated that a cube failed when it shattered. Snell's students made cubes that were heavily fiber reinforced and that behaved like sponges, so that when tested in compression they squeezed down but never shattered. Although the real compressive strength was low, they met the “specification” and thus won the competition. The rules were changed the following year, but Snell's construction students had learned a valuable lesson.
Throughout his career, Snell, along with his wife Billie, has been teaching concrete lessons to students of all ages. Thousands of his floating concrete kits have been sold to kids to demonstrate how concrete is made and how it can attain unusual properties—such as floatability. As head of the construction program at SIUE for 27 years, his students learned practical construction engineering—and of course excelled in the ACI student competitions.
This past summer Snell took on a new challenge—that of starting a new Construction Industry Management program at Arizona State University. Developed with industry-wide support, the CIM program has, until this past fall, had only the single Middle Tennessee State University program. Today there are four programs that are helping to develop the industry's future leaders, including at California State University—Chico, and New Jersey Institute of Technology. Snell's new program, which resides within the Del Webb School of Construction, has both national and local support and is expected to have a stronger construction focus than the more ready-mixed concrete focus at MTSU.
Following the 2006 World of Concrete, Snell was featured on a CBS Sunday Morning segment, conveying his passion for concrete to the entire nation. He has even moved beyond our borders, with two trips to Mongolia and an upcoming trip to Algeria, teaching good concrete practice and helping to establish ACI chapters. In an SIUE publication in 2001, Billie Snell was quoted as saying, “There are other things in life besides concrete ... but my husband doesn't believe that.”