Jack Wright‘s first big job after college was in many ways monumental.
As an engineer for MacDonald Construction, the company that was awarded the contract for construction of the Gateway Arch in March 1962, Wright played an important role in creating the “Gateway to the West,” which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
The 630-foot-tall Arch is made up of 142 double-walled triangular sections that are covered in quarter-inch-thick stainless steel. The keystone triangular section that connects the north and south legs was put into place on Oct. 28, 1965. It opened to the public in June 1967.
Wright, who earned a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering at Missouri S&T in 1961, worked on surveying and helped ensure quality control throughout the project. He says that the $13 million project was not just a job, it was a learning experience for everyone involved.
“There was an overarching schedule,” Wright says. “But, anytime you have a one-of-a-kind project, you schedule the best you can and you learn things as the project evolves. There’s no template or past work that you can use to help you with a project like this.”
Wright says everyone working on the project knew the Arch was special, but its significance wasn’t clear.
“In that time, we were just happy to have jobs,” he says. “It wasn’t just another project, but I don’t think the workforce viewed it as the celebrity it’s become.”
Wright is proud of his work on the Arch, and he visits every year — on Builders’ Day, which will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 28, this year.
“Once a year, everyone who worked on the Arch gets together to reminisce and we sign posters and talk with people,” Wright says. “I feel like a rock star when I get to sign them.”
Today, Wright, a member of the Missouri S&T Academy of Civil Engineers, owns Ladue Building and Engineering, a construction consulting firm.
Adapted from the Summer 2015 issue of Missouri S&T Magazine