Construction Engineering and Management Program founding father Oscar C. Boldt dies

// Civil & Environmental Engineering

Photo of Tom Boldt, Awad Hanna, Oscar Boldt, Ian Robertson

From left to right: Tom Boldt, Awad Hanna, Oscar Boldt and College of Engineering Dean Ian Robertson. In 2016, Oscar Boldt created The Boldt Company Professorship in Construction Engineering and Management, which is currently held by CEM Program Chair Awad Hanna.

Oscar C. Boldt, distinguished College of Engineering alumnus and longtime head of the Boldt Company, passed away June 9, 2020, at age 96. He earned his bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering in 1948 and an honorary doctorate from UW-Madison in 2006.

Boldt was a caring role-model citizen who embodied the Wisconsin Idea—the belief that the university’s work should benefit all of Wisconsin and the world. After serving his country as a B-24 Liberator navigator in World War II, he returned to school, graduated in three years and joined the family carpentry shop at just 23 years old. Two years later, Boldt took the company’s helm and over the next 70 years, built it into one of the largest and most prestigious general contractors and construction managers in the nation.

While Boldt grew his company from a small family business to a $1 billion giant in the construction field, he took up another mantle as a leading, highly active philanthropist. Throughout his life, Boldt maintained a commitment to reinvest 10 percent of his company’s profits and 50 percent of his personal earnings in his community and state.

He was immensely active in giving back to UW-Madison and Wisconsin communities and played a critical role in countless projects, including the Fox Valley Performing Arts Center in Appleton; the Kohl Center and the University of Wisconsin Foundation building in Madison; and the major cardiac expansion at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee. Additionally, he and his wife endowed significant funds at St. Olaf College, Lawrence University and UW-Madison to benefit and support the students and faculty.

“Be fair and ethical, work hard, continue to learn, help others along the way, and have fun doing it all.” — Oscar C. Boldt

Boldt helped establish the College of Engineering’s Construction Engineering and Management program with a $1 million donation. Through further donations, both monetary and of his own time and that of his employees, Boldt helped shape the CEM program into one of the most prestigious in the nation.

His ongoing contributions to the program included mentoring students and serving as a guest lecturer on topics ranging from ethics and professionalism to trends and changes in the construction industry. His passion for engineering inspired others and he possessed a unique ability to capture students’ attention and imagination with a simple, profound message: Be fair and ethical, work hard, continue to learn, help others along the way, and have fun doing it all.

Boldt’s legacy will endure at UW-Madison. His company annually continues to hire a significant percentage of the CEM program’s graduating, and in 2016, he created The Boldt Company Professorship in Construction Engineering and Management, which is currently held by CEM Program Chair Awad Hanna.

“He was a true servant leader, profoundly visionary about how the world could be better, and supremely dedicated to making it so,” Hanna says. “I was honored to count him as a friend, mentor and colleague, and he will be dearly missed.”

Author: Alex Holloway