Remembering J. Russell Cullen, Jr.
Earlier this month, I was saddened to wake up to text messages from my brother regarding the death of J. Russell Cullen, Jr. I credit (blame?) my brother for helping me get into the construction industry. My college summers (late 1980s) and early career were spent at Nason and Cullen, Inc., general contractors, when Russ Cullen was the president of the company.
Upon hearing the news, it was hard to not have my mind flood with memories of my time working at Nason and Cullen. They were a large presence in the Philadelphia construction market at that time, and I am proud to have worked with and learned from some of the brightest and best construction professionals in the industry. Aside from technical construction knowledge, the people that I worked with at that time taught me lessons that I still use today in my profession as an estimator for Madison.
Here are some of those lessons:
- Opportunity is all that any of us can ask for and in my case, it was Nason and Cullen giving a college kid with no prior construction experience a chance to learn. Having someone give you that first opportunity is a benefit that not everyone gets.
- Continuing with trust – and my favorite Russ Cullen story, which occurred the first week of my first summer at Nason and Cullen, having just finished my freshman year of college. I was entrusted with driving Mr. Cullen’s brand-new Mercedes, with 81 miles on it, to get his cell phone installed (who remembers those days??). In a torrential downpour, I managed to white-knuckle my way to the shop, get the phone installed, and get back to the office without a scratch. My first big challenge completed; I was ready to take on more responsibility!
- Finally, making the best of adversity. My time with Nason and Cullen included working with a relatively young concrete contractor – Madison Construction – who was our subcontractor on two projects for which I was an assistant project manager. When the economy hit tough times in the early 1990s, the connections that I made with people at Madison led to them hiring me. I have now worked at Madison as both a project manager and an estimator for almost 27 years.
My personal condolences go out to the Cullen family, as does my appreciation for the opportunity that was given to me those years ago.