SMITH BUSINESS Magazine
Volume 13 No. 1 SPRING 2012

Building the Dream
Smith MBA Lisa Anders Brings Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial to the Mall

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was a very personal project for Lisa Anders, MBA ’95. Both her parents and her grandmother participated in the 1963 March on Washington, walking from the house Anders now lives in to the Mall, joining thousands of men and women protesting for equal rights. They heard Dr. King give his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in person. Anders understood the emotional impact the proposed monument would have, and she was determined to do it justice — not just for the sake of her own family, but for all the men and women deeply affected by the life and influence of Dr. King.

Anders, who is vice president of business development for McKissack and McKissack, a woman/minority-owned organization specializing in architecture and construction management, was senior project manager on the Memorial project. Bringing the dream of the Memorial to life took a combination of technical skill, political finesse, people-wrangling expertise and good old-fashioned persistence.

The four-acre site on the National Mall presented some interesting technical challenges for the design-build team. The water table is high, the bedrock is 60 feet down, and the Memorial contains contains an enormous amount of stone and concrete. To take the weight, the team had to build 363 concrete and steel columns that plunge through soft dirt to the bedrock beneath, each one sited to avoid a complex network of underground utilities.

There were also personnel challenges to overcome. Anders’ build team consisted of four companies and a host of subcontractors. That put the organizational management skills she learned in her MBA courses to the test. But she also had to manage the competing needs and agendas of the project’s influential and high-powered stakeholders. This included the Commission on Fine Arts the National Capital Planning Commission, the National Park Service, and of course the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation, which began to work on plans for the Memorial almost 20 years ago.

Anders is justifiably proud of the end result, a labor of love for everyone who worked on it. “Every stone in the Memorial was laid by human hands,” says Anders. Those human hands belonged to professionals, craftsmen and laborers who came overwhelmingly from minority groups. Some, including company owner Deryl McKissack, were the descendants of slaves.

Inspired by Dr. King’s example, the builders also wanted to give back to the community. All of the joint venture team members, along with their subcontractors, contributed money toward scholarships for local high school students interested in majoring in engineering, architecture, or construction management, or going to trade school. “This was an amazing project for our team and the students,” says Anders. “We awarded $5,000 scholarships and MacBooks to 10 high school seniors. One of the scholarship receipts, Janna Madyun, is now a freshman at the University of Maryland.”

With the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial finished, Anders is embarking on her next big project — serving as the senior program director for the construction of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American Culture.

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