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2014 Alumni Achievement Award:
Honors those who have achieved exceptional distinction in their professional field.

Garry Higdem
Click to watch biography video
1975 B.S. civil engineering, NDSU

President, Parsons Construction Group
Former project executive on the Panama Canal expansion project

Garry grew up in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Garry’s fascination with building things goes back to the Lincoln Logs he got as a Christmas present one year as a young boy. He also remembers his first construction job – picking up nails from a demolished barn to prepare for a new barn on the family farm.

In high school, he worked for an electrical contractor, who tried to convince him to pursue an education in electrical engineering. While he enjoyed the field, he preferred being outdoors and wanted to follow his passion for building things. When looking at schools, he wanted an accredited civil engineering program that was close to home, where he could play baseball. NDSU was the perfect fit.

The summer months during Garry’s time at NDSU were spent on a survey crew for the Minnesota Department of Transportation and then starting a pole barn construction company, because no firms were hiring due to the gas crisis. Through his education at NDSU and his part time positions the foundation was in place for what would turn into a spectacular career in civil engineering.

After graduating from NDSU in 1975, Garry’s talent quickly emerged. As an employee with Al Johnson Construction, he was immediately sent to a large lock and dam project in Alabama. After a time, he moved to Granite Construction in California and, for 25 years, he managed heavy-civil projects across the country. After a couple of years as president of a division of Ashland, Garry joined CH2M Hill in 2005.

Among his duties, was overseeing one of the largest, most visible projects in the world – the $5.2 billion expansion of the Panama Canal. He also was associated with the buildings of the 2012 London Olympics, a $14 billion project; and the Las Vegas Monorail system, a $150 million project.

With Garry’s professional rise, came a variety of other opportunities, like being a board member of the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators and a fellow and board member for the American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s Transportation Development Foundation.

In addition, he gave back to his Midwestern roots by serving on the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute advisory board. In 2008, he received the institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Currently, Garry is the President of Parson’s Construction Group. He is a registered professional engineer in Colorado, North Dakota and Texas.

During his 39-year career in the construction industry, he clearly has risen to the top of his profession. He describes his career (his mother says it’s his real hobby) as extremely rewarding as it fulfills his lifelong dream of building projects that make a difference. What is even more rewarding is watching young talent truly grow within the industry, and more importantly, within themselves.

He and his wife, Susan, live in Castle Rock, Colorado. They have four children, Natalie, Aaron, David, and Mark. His hobbies include home repair projects, golfing, skiing, biking and hiking.

In light of his many outstanding accomplishments, Garry’s personal top action items seem appropriate to share:

  • Know your dream and set your goals,
  • Say “yes” to opportunity and create rich experiences,
  • Work hard – successful people do,
  • Find champions – they will mentor you,
  • Take care of yourself, fitness keeps you strong,
  • And maintain your family and friends – they will support you.

If you’d like to send a note of congratulations to Garry, please email it to
Alia@ndsualumni.com and we’ll include it in his guestbook.

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