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Jack Okland was a big man.
Big enough physically to earn All-America status as a left tackle at the University of Utah, capping his collegiate career in 1945 by playing in the then-prominent East-West Shrine Game and the Chicago All Star Game.
He was an even bigger player in shaping the state's architectural look, as long-time scion of a family business, Okland Construction, whose handiwork is evident in buildings and other structures throughout Utah - along with 22 other states and Mexico.
"He's one of the best things that ever happened to the state of Utah," Rich Thorn, president and chief executive of Associated General Contractors, said of Okland, who died Saturday of melanoma cancer at the age of 84.
"Okland Construction truly has built the state," Thorn added. "They've left their quality mark, literally, across Utah and the Intermountain West."
The company, perhaps best known in the industry for its fine concrete work, has been involved in hundreds of public, private and church projects in the years since Norwegian immigrant John Okland started the company in 1918 and son Jack took over in 1946, after his football days were done. His sons now run the business.
Evidence of Okland's work can be seen in the plaza around EnergySolutions Arena, new and improved Kingsbury Hall, The Gateway and City Creek projects in downtown Salt Lake City, LDS temples and other church facilities far and wide.
The bobsled/luge track at Utah Olympic Park, Hill Air Force Base's commissary and fitness center, the Jeremy Ranch clubhouse, Phoenix Zoo and South Summit recreation complex also are Okland projects, as are the renovation of landmarks from the University of Utah's Marriott Library to the Rio Grande and Union Pacific railroad depots. Okland also helped give face-lifts to West, Highland and Timpanogos high schools and Uinta Elementary.
"They've developed a niche doing courthouses," said Lynn Hinrichs, an official with the Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management. "Their work is second to none. There's never any issues with that. There's a real art to it and they know how to work it right."
The company's approach to business reflected Jack Okland's approach to life, said Thorn, whose organization was led by Okland in 1956.
"The things Okland Construction is known for are based on things he handed down - honor, integrity, your word being your bond. He believed that. It was a core value of his," Thom added. "That whole mindset has been ingrained in that company. The positive influence that Jack Okland has left on people will help drive this industry well into the future."
The company has 450 full-time employees and offices in Salt Lake City; Tempe, Ariz., and Durango, Colo.
Okland was active in the Rotary Club of Sugar House, Key Bank's board of directors, the Governor's Advisory Commission and the Norwegian Consulate of Utah.
He was born April 5, 1923, in Salt Lake City to John and Martha Okland. He graduated from South High School before earning a civil engineering degree at the U. He married Jeanne Grant on Dec. 18, 1944; it was later solemnized in the Salt Lake City LDS Temple. He is survived by his widow, Salt Lake City; sons J. Randy (Sandra) and James (Carolee); 16 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren; sisters, Marie (Ed) Evans and June (Av) Osguthorpe; preceded in death by sons Jeffrey and Jack, daughters Joy and Jill.
Viewings will take place from 6-8 tonight and from 11-12:15 a.m. Friday at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park, 3401 Highland Drive. Funeral services begin at 12:30 p.m. at the Parleys 6th Ward, 2350 S. 2100 East.