Published on June 7th, 2017 | by UC&D Magazine0
Ex-college athletes utilize lessons learned during playing days to find success in Utah’s A/E/C industry
Playing competitive sports on the collegiate level requires a combination of traits – intense dedication to physical fitness, the ability to perform under pressure, playing at a high skill level, working in harmony with different teammates/ personalities, and flat-out competing as hard as possible to earn a ‘W’.
In this section, we profile five individuals within Utah’s A/E/C industry who have taken the lessons they learned from their sporting hey days and forged successful professional careers. Four of these individuals currently play key roles within their respective firms: Davis Mullholand of CCI Mechanical, Brent Tippets of R&O Construction, Josh Haines of Layton Construction, and Mike Sivulich of Jacobsen Construction. The fifth, Jack Okland of Okland Construction – passed away in 2007, yet deserves being recognized as one of the industry’s true legends, in addition to being an AllAmerican football player at the University of Utah in the 40’s.
As the President/CEO of Salt Lakebased CCI Mechanical – a 300-employee firm and the largest mechanical contractor in Utah per annual revenues – Davis Mullholand credits his time as a captain for Penn State University’s hockey team as an important reason in his ability to be a successful company leader.
“I certainly learned about leadership being a captain of the team – it gave me confidence to express myself and the ability to talk through conflict,” said Mullholand, who cut his hockey teeth (of which he still has a full set) in the Tri-City area of upstate New York (he grew up in Schenectady). “There are definitely some (similarities) – you have a variety of personalities and you need to determine drivers for each person, what makes them tick. What do they want to get out of the experience, whether it’s work or hockey…what gives them joy from this experience? It’s a key factor. The other similarity is recognizing that it’s bigger than me. What gives me true pleasure is in seeing people grow, both in the office and on the ice – that’s what really drives me.”
Mullholand grew up a Boston Bruins fan – he has a framed picture of Hall of Fame Bruin defense icon Bobby Orr in his office – but wore jersey No. 15 partly because of his love for New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson, who died in a plane crash August 2, 1979 at age 32.
He graduated from high school in 1985 and chose to attend Penn State University in Happy Valley (College Station), Penn., despite not being offered a scholarship. He chose the Nittany Lions because of the school’s worldclass engineering program and worked hard to balance his studies with hockey. He thrived doing both.
On the ice Mullholand earned ICHL (International Collegiate Hockey League) Rookie of the Year in ‘85-’86, and was an integral part of two championship teams in ’88-’89 (ICHL) and ’89-’90 (Division 1 American Collegiate Hockey Association). His last two years he served as Assistant Captain and then Captain, and posted a phenomenal 35 +/- rating his final season. As one of the league’s best defensemen, he posted career totals of 16 goals, 54 assists, and 108 penalty minutes. His total +/- over four years was 95.
As a student majoring in Architectural Engineering – a five-year major – he actually took the ’87-’88 season off from hockey to focus on what he called “an intense” academic year, something today’s modern athlete would rarely consider. “Back then it was so different,” he says of being a collegiate student-athlete.
Mullholand, who turns 50 in October, moved to Salt Lake in October 2001 to take over as President/CEO of CCI. He is still heavily involved in hockey, both as a player and coach. He competes on a local Division 1 Adult team in Salt Lake, with most of the players having competed at the D1, Junior or Professional levels. His team is named the ‘Gray Grizzlies’, with players ages 18 to 52 (only three players are older than him). His son Conor is currently playing for a U-18 tier one elite high school team in Malvern, Penn., and is planning on playing this summer for the Gray Grizzlies. Mullholand’s older daughter, Maddy, plays lacrosse at the DIII University of Rochester (NY). He coached both of his children at Juan Diego High School in Draper and still coaches U-14 Junior Grizzlies locally.
“I have a passion for not just creating better hockey players, but creating better young men and women,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. I enjoy seeing them develop – they grow and change so much at that age.” He doesn’t reflect much on his career as a collegiate player, but does meet up annually with former teammates to rekindle timeless memories and longtime friendships.
“We reconvene once a year and relive the ‘glory days’ – those guys are friends for life,” he said. “It’s like we never left each other, the trust and relationships. I believe that hockey is a primary reason for my success. It gave me the tools to understand
interpersonal dynamics…I learned how to deal with many different personalities.
“Our last season, there were 3-4 different cliques…we were ready to kill each other. We got to the turn of the season and figured out how to leverage strengths and diminish conflicts and went on to win the national championship.”
Paul Tippets, Quality Control Manager for R&O Construction of Ogden, played with and against some notable football players during his career as a wide receiver at Utah State University (USU) from 1972-76, including former Aggies Louie Giammona (RB), Eric Hipple (QB) and Rulon Jones (DL), Texas running back Earl Campbell, and Kent State middle linebacker Jack Lambert. All went on to play in the NFL; Lambert and Campbell made the NFL Hall of Fame and are considered among the best at their position all-time.
The 63-year-old Tippets participated in four sports at Bonneville High School in Washington Terrace and earned All-State accolades in football, baseball and track, and All-Region in basketball, earning 10 varsity letters as well as being awarded the ‘Gold Watch’ by the Ogden Standard-Examiner as the best athlete at the school his senior year in ‘72. “Football was actually my least favorite sport,” he admits, yet the one that
provided a college education.
He received two full-ride scholarship offers – from USU and the University of New Mexico, although several junior colleges in the state recruited him to play both football and baseball. He converted from running back to receiver at USU and was a three-year starter, leading the Aggies in receiving yards in 1975 with 24 receptions for 360 yards and 2 TDs. One of the touchdowns came against Wyoming Nov. 1 in Logan and gave USU the lead in a game they ultimately won 27-21. He admits those are modest numbers, but noted that the Aggies were a run-first offense with Giamonna rushing for 1,454 yards and 11 TDs in ’75.
“We didn’t throw the ball much,” said
Tippets, who didn’t play as a freshman in ’72, and broke his jaw in the first game of the 1974 season against Wyoming. He received a medical hardship, which allowed him to play in 1976. For his career he finished with 45 receptions for 601 yards (13.4 avg.) and 2 TDs. Among his career highlights: playing at the University of Texas in Austin in October ’75 in front of 65,000+ fans – the Longhorns roughed up USU to the tune of
61-7 but Tippets reveled in the experience nonetheless; playing against Lambert’s Kent State team in October ’73 in Logan. The Aggies lost 27-16, but Tippets said “I had the privilege of cracking back on Jack Lambert a few times.”
After graduating from USU with a B.S. in History and minors in Business and City Planning, Tippets worked for 32 years for two different cities as a Public Works Director and a Building Official before retiring from that position. He knew R&O founder Orluff Opheikens and current President/CEO Slade Opheikens and joined the company as a Quality Control Manager/ Building Inspector in 2008. He envisions retiring in a couple of years.
His position requires him to visit various jobs sites and make sure everything is in order and built to R&O’s quality standards.
“I look for inadequacies in buildings…I also handle all warranty services,” he said. “If anything happens during that one-year warranty I take care of it.” On a project like a Maverik convenience store, for example, he said there might be “20 things I have to take care of over the course of a year. I take care of our customers and get things fixed in a timely manner so they keep coming back to us. A lot of it is (public relations).”
He’s enjoyed his time at R&O and appreciates only having to deal with a handful of people on a daily basis, like an owner or a store manager, versus the number of people he dealt with as a Public Works Director (city council members, mayors, etc.) and the plethora of meetings he was required to attend each week.
He said his days on the gridiron taught him multiple values that he’s applied to his professional careers. “Work hard, keep going under adversity, and remain competitive,” he said
Josh Haines cuts an imposing figure, standing 6’ 4” and currently tipping the scales at a chiseled 230 pounds. The Rutherford, North Carolina native had a solid playing career as a 270-pound defensive tackle from 1986-90, earning Honorable Mention All-American his junior year, often playing injured. He had three surgeries his final year and given a medical discharge.
Haines and his wife started coming to Utah for vacations a few years ago and fell in love with it, ultimately buying a lot in Park City in 2013. He applied to be Director at the State of Utah DFCM and was hired August 2013 before joining Layton Construction in December 2014.
Haines started playing competitive football at age 12 and said he could have attended most ACC schools, but “always wanted to go to Army”.
He played under Army Coach Jim Young, who led the Cadets to four bowl games over a 7-year stretch including against mighty Alabama in the Sun Bowl in ’88, losing a heartbreaker 29-28. Army finished with a stellar 9-3 record during Haines’ junior year, which he credited to a tremendous unity amongst teammates. He earned three bachelor degrees along the way – in Psychology, Construction Management and Business Management.
A couple of games stand out in his career: against Washington his senior year he recorded 10 tackles and a career high 3 sacks, and as a freshman against Tennessee – a Top 10 ranked team at the time under then-Coach Philip Fulmer – he blocked a punt with a minute left and Army went on to win 25-21 in Knoxville.
His post-graduation duty required a five-year commitment, and he served in Afghanistan for three years working for the U.S. Dept. of Defense (DOD). He served as a top-notch, intuitive Project Manager, overseeing the construction of four operating bases, myriad police stations throughout the country, and the Afghan’s National Military Training Facility.
There was one American per two Afghan security teams, and he gained an immense appreciation for the native Afghan people, who he described as very kind, loyal and hard working. Politics and the governments in general on both sides of the fence tend to skew perceptions in the name of war. “I met some of the best people I could ever imagine.” He also still maintains relationships with 20+ people from that period that reside in the U.S.
He credits that experience for helping mold the person he is today, one that values putting in a hard days work and cherishes the relationships around him.
“It was a phenomenal experience,” said Haines, who still enjoys working out and recently bought a new road bike, which he plans to ride extensively this summer in and around his home in Park City (Kamas is a good go-to ride, given its semi-rural/mountainous feel and proximity to home). He said he rode some 1,700 miles biking last year, typically in 50-mile increments.
Work at Layton provides a never-ending supply of challenges, based on overseeing 6-8 projects at a time, many in the southern part of Utah. “It’s fast, it’s furious…there is never a dull moment. The challenges are everyday. It’s what I live for.”
Mike Sivulich III parlayed an outstanding high school career at Bonneville High (two-time state champion; ‘87 graduate) – he was a star point guard in basketball and a pitcher/third baseman in baseball – into a four-year college hoops career for Weber State University and Utah Valley University (one year, ’90-91, under then coach Duke Reid, a former BYU coach whose sons Randy and Robbie were star players from (’93-94). He transferred back to WSU for his final two years on the invitation of coach Ron Abbeglen from ’91-’93.
Sivulich served a two-year LDS mission to Santiago, Dominican Republic prior to his college career, and was recruited initially to Weber State by Denny Huston while on his mission, carrying the torch handed to him by his father, Mike Sivulich Jr. His dad was stationed in the Navy in Long Beach, and one of the best players on the base team as a 5’ 8” point guard, when an acquaintance said he could possibly get him a scholarship to WSU. Sivulich Jr. ended up playing from ’59-63 under Utah coaching legend Dick Motta and was ultimately inducted into WSU’s Hall of Fame.
The younger Sivulich posted career averages of 5 PPG and 7 APG, earned a double major (Business Management and Spanish) and was named a two-time
Academic All-American his last two years at WSU (3.7 GPA). The Wildcats posted a 20-8 record his senior year, with wins over BYU and Utah State to earn the ‘Oquirrh Bucket’. He hit the game-sealing free throws in the final seconds against the University of Idaho for one of several memorable wins.
“I…was excited to play in my home town and follow in my father’s footsteps,” said Mike III. “Playing college basketball was a great experience and it fulfilled a goal I had since I was a young boy. There is nothing better than playing against the in-state schools in front of a packed house.”
His lone disappointment was WSU not making the NCAA tournament, even though they had a competitive team. Younger brother Dave also played college hoops, for St. Mary’s in California (he played a game against former No. 1 pick and 5-time NBA Champion Tim Duncan of Wake Forest) in the mid-to-late ‘90’s. After graduating from WSU, Mike III worked in the financial services industry for a decade where he co-owned a firm called One Source Wealth Management. He then spent two years working in Business Development/PR/Marketing for Petersen, Inc, an Ogden-based steel fabricator, before accepting a similar position at Jacobsen Construction in October 2007. He admits going from Petersen to Jacobsen was “a big jump” but “I realized after coming to a GC, what an important role a GC plays in the greater economy of any city or state. Despite being hired shortly before the ‘Great Recession’ hit, he said Jacobsen was working on a handful of significant projects, including City Creek Center, and fared better than many firms. “It helped us weather the storm very favorably – we were able to have good years even through the downturn.”
Mike III said he pursues work in several different markets, including healthcare and commercial/office – currently among the firm’s two hottest markets. He said the balance of work is roughly 65% private and 35% public. The LDS Church is among several prominent long-time clients – Jacobsen recently completed the Meridian, Idaho temple and was part of the impressive Conference Center project that was completed in 2000.
Playing college ball aided his competitive nature, something he also enjoys about working for a GC. He also appreciates the competitors he’s met at other firms, realizing the intimate marketplace Salt Lake offers and the importance of building relationships even with those you’re battling for projects.
“There is always that competitive nature, whether it’s in sports or business,” he said. “When I first started at Jacobsen we’d go to attend pre-bid meetings where other GC’s would be…my initial reaction was ‘they’re our competition’. I realized shortly after that I’d be seeing them every week all year…we’ve become friends through the years.
“You realize Salt Lake is a small community – you never know when you’ll have an opportunity to partner or jointventure
with the competition (Jacobsen is part of a tri-venture on the new LDS Missionary Training Facility in Provo, slated for completion this fall). It’s to everyone’s benefit to have good relationships.
Jack Okland (1922-2007) was the second-generation leader of Okland Construction over four decades beginning in 1945 and running through 1985, after a decorated college football career, where he earned All-America honors at the University of Utah as an Offensive Tackle his senior year in ’45, playing four years under iconic Ute Coach Ike Armstrong. Other college distinctions his senior year included playing in the prestigious EastWest Shrine Game and the Chicago All-Star Game.
He was drafted by the New York Giants and offered an $8,000 contract, but figured helping his father John run a successful construction company was more important, lucrative and sustainable long-term. John, a Norwegian native and LDS convert who immigrated to Utah in 1916, was a finished carpenter by trade who founded Okland in 1918 and mostly worked on residential projects and small commercial projects during the firm’s first 25-plus years.
Under Jack’s leadership and guidance, Okland started focusing strictly on commercial projects of all sizes both public and private, according to current CEO Randy Okland, one of two of Jack’s sons to work in the business (along with brother James). Three of Jack’s grandsons – fourth generation Oklands – currently hold significant roles with the firm – Bill, Bret and Chris.
“Maybe it’s just in our Norweigian blood that we like to build things,” said Randy. “Bret, Bill and Chris are all very serious about the business. We’re proud to be able to put something together that is lasting, something you can see and appreciate over time.”
Randy (born in ’49) started working part-time under his father in the mid-60s and moved to full-time by 1970. Around 1980, Jack started turning over the keys of the firm to Randy and James, and gradually eased into retirement, although he still maintained a strong, viable presence as an advisor until his later years.
“I know he enjoyed his time at the U,” said Randy. “He had a great (career) and was the third U of U football player to participate in the East-West Shrine Game. When he started full-time in 1945 he told my grandfather he wanted to change the company’s direction to more industrial and commercial construction, rather than residential. From ’45 on that was the direction Okland took.”
Jack was as hard-nosed and competitive in business as he was on the football field, preaching the best quality possible and doing anything it took to make clients happy. On some occasions, Jack would visit a jobsite and demand significant changes when things weren’t right, even ripping out complete slabs of concrete and re-pouring them, all on Okland’s dime. “My father and grandfather had an eye for quality,” said Randy. “They would come onto a jobsite and they would inevitably see something that didn’t meet our company standards. At our expense, we were fixing it.
In our business…it’s knowing the quality is there.”
Jack forged strong relationships with a host of clients during his 40-year+ career, including the LDS Church. One early project under Jack’s watch for the Church was rebuilding the Snowflake, Arizona temple, which had burned down. Okland has built several LDS temples across the country and other special projects in the past 70+ years. Randy credits his father’s overall work ethic, honesty, and humility among his greatest traits.
“Jack was the type of person that didn’t want to take a lot of credit,” said Randy. “He did a lot of things for neighbors, widows, people who genuinely needed help. His idea was to help others and do things quietly without raising a flag. He was a giving person, and he helped a lot of people.”
Jack was an ardent supporter of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Utah, serving as President (now Chair) in 1962. Randy and other company executives have remained active in the association, with Randy serving as Chair in 2012 – 50 years after Jack.
“The main benefit I enjoy (from AGC) is just the relationships you make within the organization and the fact we can be comrades and yet we’re battling against each other to get work. It’s enjoyable to share successes and problems with other firms.”
“Jack was an imposing figure physically, but he was a true gentle giant, one of the nicest men to work in Utah’s construction industry,” said Rich Thorn, long-time President/CEO of the AGC of Utah. “He’s one of the true pioneers of our industry and established a legacy of quality for Okland. The firm has left its mark, literally, all across Utah and the Intermountain West, starting with its impeccable concrete quality and building dozens of high-profile projects every year.”
The firm’s HQ is in SLC, it has had a satellite office in the Phoenix area for 40+ years, and it typically ranks among the top four Utah-based general contractors in yearly revenues. “Jack’s mindset was ingrained in the company from the start of his career,” Thorn added. “He’s responsible for setting a positive tone that carries on to this day.”