Masonry Construction's Industry Leader of the Year for 2000 stands apart. Richard Lauber, president of J&E Duff Inc. in Carol Stream, Ill., is revered for his modesty, his patience, and his honesty, as well as for having the courage of his convictions. A soft-spoken religious man with a wry sense of humor, Dick has earned countless accolades for his tremendous generosity and indefatigable commitment to the masonry industry at the local and national levels. His finesse during management-union negotiations, his efforts toward recruiting and training apprentices, and his safety initiatives are particularly noteworthy.

Masonry consultant Colin Munro of Batavia, Ill., a member of Masonry Construction's editorial advisory board, spearheaded Dick Lauber's nomination, with enthusiastic backing from the Mason Contractors Association of Greater Chicago (MCAGC) and the Illinois Masonry Institute.

"In any endeavor we need heroes," observed Masonry Construction's editor, Bill Palmer, who presented the award. "In construction, it seems that the heroes are often the buildings themselves or the technology. But especially in masonry construction, it's the people who make it all happen, and we need to recognize those who have made a difference."

Dick Lauber, Masonry Construction's second Industry Leader of the Year, has been at the vanguard of training and apprenticeship, "donating time, money, and energy," Palmer emphasized. Because he has been an invaluable leader of the association, "MCAGC even changed its bylaws to keep him in office for another term as president."

In addition to being president of the MCAGC, Dick chairs the negotiating committee of the Northern Illinois Mason Employers Council (NIMEC), the Local #21 pension and health & welfare funds, and the District Council #1 annuity fund. He also is a member of the Mid-America Regional Bargaining Association and the Construction Industry Service Corp. (CISCO), an organization devoted to improving union-management understanding and cooperation in all construction trades.

J&E Duff, "consistently one of top employers of apprentices in Local #56 and in the entire IUBAC [International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers] District Council #1" currently employs about 160 people, of whom 12 are apprentices or improvers. The improvers have some bricklaying experience but are not yet journey-level.

Recently, Dick and other local industry leaders successfully negotiated for a "novice trainee" class for District Council #1. The program is expected to bring more young people into the masonry trade and to allow those who don't care for the work to exit easily.

From both management and labor perspectives, Dick Lauber has won great acclaim for his negotiating skill. Along with Art Christmann of Northbrook, Ill.-based Christmann Construction, he completed a historic 4-year bricklayers' contract-extension agreement a full 5 months before the contract was up. This was a tremendous accomplishment, given the strife that used to exist between labor and management in the Chicago area. Christmann notes that neither he nor anyone else wants to succeed Dick Lauber as president of MCAGC because Dick is too hard an act to follow.

At the national level, Dick has been active in the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) for more than 25 years, serving on the group's manpower, finance, membership, and marketing committees.

J&E Duff has earned recognition for its emphasis on safety. For about 7 years, Dick Lauber has represented masonry contractors on the board of the Chicagoland Construction Safety Council. It is vital for masonry contractors to participate in the development of codes and standards, Dick believes. He serves as a representative to the Masonry Alliance for Codes & Standards, which has the goal of assuring that building codes are fair to masonry. For more than 16 years, he has been an active member of ASTM-on committees C-12 (on mortars for unit masonry) and C-15 (on manufactured masonry units).

According to Dick, "Contractors have to get involved. We need to protect ourselves-not from anything malicious, just from their lack of knowledge of what goes on in the field."

Dick Lauber also places a high priority on industry promotion.

Such generosity of time and money extends to Dick's charitable work. "He is a tireless giver," says Jim O'Connor, executive secretary of the MCAGC.

"I wasn't much of a bricklayer," Dick concedes. "I told my father-in-law, 'If I'm going to do you any good, I need to work in the office. "There he learned estimating and all the other aspects of running a masonry business.

Dick is extremely grateful to his family, his entire staff, and, most of all, to God. "God has been good to me, and I feel I owe something. I haven't gone broke in 40 years; we've been fortunate. I have excellent people working for me, which allows me to go to meetings while jobs get built. I've been blessed with good people, good circumstances, and a good wife."