History of CH2M HILL

Jim Howland

The origin of this history project began with Jim Howland and Bob Pailthorp, which was a laborious effort that took months of research, writing, editing, and rewriting in the mid-1980s. They jointly created about 28 typewritten pages of material that provided the initial outline and structure upon which others then added their own memories, thoughts, and impressions.

This history, much of which is based on the recollections of past employees, is presented as a series of decadal capsules, marking the important events that took place during the formation and growth of CH2M HILL. In addition to the “core” history, presented in 10-year blocks, the history narrative contains sidebar vignettes that may be brought up as the reader chooses. These vignettes cover significant events in the firm’s history and interesting recollections of our alumni in far greater detail than is recorded in the core history sections. Lastly, biographical sketches of many CH2M HILL alumni are included.

Bob Pailthorp

In addition to the recollections of past employees, this history also refers to Building a Better World, Transformational Milestones 1946 to 2009, the signature account of the firm’s history compiled by Harlan Moyer, David Miller, and several others and authorized by Ralph Peterson. A second equally outstanding effort is, The History of CH2M HILL by Arlen Borgen (PDF). The purpose of this history, beyond chronicling this exceptional group of people doing challenging, innovative, and sometimes unprecedented work, is to provide alumni an understanding of the legacy they inherited and the values and business philosophy they can be expected to preserve and enhance.

In 2018 CH2M reissued a new edition of Building a Better World under the stewardship of then Chairman and CEO, Jacqueline C. Hinman.  This new edition updated the 1946-2009 Firm history and provided new history from 2010 through 2017 and CH2M’s sale to Jacobs Engineering.  For the revised Epilogue dated December 13, 2017, refer to [Jacque’s Epilogue]. On this same December 13th the stockholders voted to approve the sale of the firm to Jacobs [refer to Jacobs].

Like Building a Better World, this Alumni History is for the past, and present, alumni of CH2M HILL. From Project No. 1, a septic tank, to the firm as of today [CH2M Numbers at 2016] (PDF), it has been an amazing run of 72 years. We won’t try to summarize that here; the Alumni History herein will do that. And while we are saddened at the loss of CH2M HILL, we wish Jacobs and the newly acquired CH2M HILL people every success as they continue to build a better world. [Day 1 by Jacobs Chairman and CEO] In the meantime, we will continue to chronicle the history and alumni of CH2M HILL as long as there is interest.


We are all indebted to C. J. (Gus) Pantazi, who worked tirelessly, beginning in the mid-1990s, to create and maintain a Website that formed the model for this updated and upgraded edition of the History of CH2M HILL. As the history grew in size and complexity, it finally became too great a task for even such a dedicated CH2M alum to continue without help. Having retired in 1986, Gus was no longer in the loop of events that had occurred or were occurring beyond that date. Due to this lack of access to new events and the increasing magnitude of the task, Gus decided to seek the assistance of others in order to continue the history into the new millennium.

In 2008, Gus surrendered any actual or perceived property rights regarding his Website and its contents to the Alumni History Group, a body of retirees headed by Gordon Koblitz. Led by Gordon, a small group of fellow retirees (Don Marske, Dave Evans, and Gene Suhr) then undertook the formidable task of updating the history, adding to the content, and authoring new material to bring the original effort into the present. By common vote, Gene Suhr was asked to lead the editorial effort and those of us who knew Gene personally recognized that this was a task for which he was well-suited. A huge pat on the back is in order for Gene who lived up to his reputation for possessing precise, clear language skills that he applied to new additions, new formatting, and the decision-making process regarding the addition of new material. Sadly, Gene passed away in January 2013. While his company historical knowledge, wit, and expertise will be sorely missed, the remaining team members, along with its 2013 addition of Jim Schwing and Rick Luebbers in 2015, will carry on his duties.

As is the case with most literary efforts, the unsung heroes are the craftsmen who labor behind the scene to polish the efforts of we engineers (who are notoriously poor writers) and make the final product readable. For these services we are indebted to Suellen Ehrmann and Susie Gaare, our accomplished and tireless editors.

Some of the individuals who participated in the early years of the CH2M HILL phenomenon are no longer with us, and each year, the remaining survivors become fewer and fewer. Those who have left us have made an indelible imprint on CH2M HILL and as you read this record and the written exchange of thoughts between the original partners, you will experience some of the pride and personal satisfaction that still dwells in the hearts and minds of those of us who have shared a portion of our lives with the organization they helped to create.

Many people have contributed to this reconstruction of the past. It is also freely acknowledged that much of the material for this presentation has been adapted from source material prepared by other authors and published in various publications.

Corporate recognition of the potential value and interest in creating this history has been in the form of moral support, financial support and the extended hand of behind-the-scenes support offered by Bill Dehn and Mike Kennedy. Through Bill and Mike, the History Project gained stature, thus spreading word of the project’s existence and exhorting others to make topical contributions.

Many current or former employees of CH2M HILL lent their support in the form of suggestions, bits of information, artwork and photos and helped spread the word that we are looking for data and information regarding significant events that occurred during the growth and development of the firm.

As with most histories, this is a work in progress. As others continue to make history it is hoped that their deeds will be added to this tome. To this end, we solicit your input and comments and will endeavor to add input to this history as may be appropriate. So please send in your stories, your pictures, and your interesting facts to Don Marske and consider yourself thanked in advance.


Throughout the annals of History, humankind has occasionally witnessed a confluence of the lives of men and women who jointly created the means for humanity to be advanced by their contribution to society and humankind in general. Such an event took place in the years 1945-1950 when Jim Howland, Holly Cornell, Burke Hayes, Fred Merryfield and Clair Hill took up the challenge to create a livelihood that would be a credit to their families and their neighbors.

Little did they know and expect that their combined efforts would create a ripple effect that, in later years, would turn into a tsunami, reaching distant corners of the earth. Their names would become legendary, but their personal demeanors would never change—-their humility and sociability would not diminish as the result of their fame and fortune.

In their honor and with great humility and respect, we, the former colleagues, and fellow workers who rubbed shoulders with these masters now wish to dedicate to their memory this History of their great achievement. Jim Howland served nobly as an editor and advisor during its initial preparation, not knowing that those of us who had the privilege of working with him fully intended to bestow upon him our combined vote of First Citizen of CH2M HILL. It will serve as our way of letting Jim know that we, singly, and as a body of fellow workers, deem it a privilege to bask in his shadow!

The Retirees of CH2M HILL,
Delivered at the time of Jim Howland’s 92nd birthday, June 2, 2008

Disclosure: The CH2M Alumni Association and this communication is not affiliated in any way with or supported by Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. or its acquired CH2M Companies, Ltd. group family of companies. Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. is not responsible for any content published by or activities of the CH2M Alumni Association.