Focus and Construction

From thunder to enlightening: DeYoung's reign comes to an end

October 8, 2012
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From thunder to enlightening: DeYoung's reign comes to an end
Gordon DeYoung, left, and Dan T. Vos have formed a solid bond over the past several years. Vos is taking over for DeYoung as president of Dan Vos Construction Company. Photo by Jim Gebben

Gordon DeYoung’s impressive 47-year career at Dan Vos Construction Co. has come to an end.

As of Aug. 31, DeYoung, former DVCC president, is a retired man, only working a few hours a week as a consultant for the firm’s new president, Dan T. Vos. The former executive vice president of DVCC and grandson of company founder Dan R. Vos said it was a “surreal” feeling to step into the shoes of DeYoung, a mentor and friend who helped build the company.

“When I started as a field laborer, we had Amway as an account and we built churches,” DeYoung said. “In today’s world, we average about 120 clients a year.”

DeYoung’s career began in 1965 when, as a teen just out of high school, he said his girlfriend’s father told him, “If you’re going to date my daughter, you need a better job. You have an appointment at Dan Vos tomorrow.”

His first day of pouring concrete in thunder and rain became a company legend, said Dan Blundy, vice president and project manager.

“The first day he came in, he left convinced he wasn’t coming back,” Blundy said. “His dad told him, ‘You’re going to finish up the week and then make a decision.’ And 47 years later, there he is.”

DeYoung rose to foreman, project manager and vice president. Along the way, he mentored men like Blundy and Project Manager Ron Visser. Visser worked with DeYoung for 42 years, longer than anyone else at the company, and described his longtime colleague as an “ethical, hard worker.”

Visser was especially proud of DeYoung’s consistency with customers, notably Perrigo Co., a pharmaceutical manufacturer that became DeYoung’s client in 1980.

“When it comes to clients, Perrigo has been my number one client for 32 years,” DeYoung said.

DeYoung became president of DVCC in 2001. Although a stormy day had marked his career beginning, braving the economic storm of the decade would be his defining impact on the company.

“I became president in July of 2001. We all know what happened on Sept. 11 a few months later, and after that … the recession,” he said. “When you go through the terrorist attack of 9/11, then you hang in there for a few years, then you have the economic recession … it wasn’t easy.”

His proudest achievement, he said, was leading the company to financial security through those hard years.

“Not one month did the company have a negative month. We made a profit every month for all 11 years I was president,” he said. “Sometimes it wasn’t much, but we were never in the red. I’m very proud of that.”

Marcia Holt, human resources manager, described DeYoung as a strong presidential presence, respected for his ethics when it came to doing the right thing.

“Sometimes you don’t always make the popular decision, but you make the right decisions,” she said. “He used to always say, ‘I have to sleep at night with the decisions I make.’”

The new president, like DeYoung, also worked his way up his own family ladder, starting in 1995 as a field laborer. Vos called DeYoung a family friend he has known his whole life, who mentored him during the transition into the president’s chair.

“He had a hard outer shell,” Vos said. “He was a hardliner … but if you knew him, there was a softer inner core.”

As far as business is concerned, Vos isn’t. DVCC will continue to “keep on trucking with the core values” started by Dan R. Vos in 1951, he said.

“It’s literally old school meets new school,” said Shannon Cunningham, the firm’s marketing coordinator. “They have two different business repertoires. … Gordy’s more regimented … more of an operations-minded person, and Dan’s more of a bigger picture type of guy.”

DeYoung praised Vos as a leader, predicting the company’s communication and outreach programs will expand under his presidency.

“Danny’s younger, got new ideas, but he’s got the same ethics his grandfather built the company on,” DeYoung said. “I see a lot of good things for the company ahead.”

As for his future, DeYoung said he plans to spend the rest of the year hunting and then start planning his retirement on the first of next year. He looks back on his career with contentment, saying he would do it again in a heartbeat.

“What was it like waking up every day to go to work for 47 years? It was very enjoyable because it was a good place to work,” DeYoung said. “I could count on one hand the days I didn’t want to get up and go.”

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