We are saddened by the news that our Co-founder and Chairman of the Board, Robert “Bob” L. Zollars, PE, RPLS, passed away on April 20 in Dallas, Texas. He was 72 years old. Bob was a tremendous leader in the firm and throughout the engineering community, and he will be dearly missed by our entire staff.
Bob’s career spanned nearly five decades, most recently as Chairman and CEO. He also served as Principal-in-Charge and Project Manager for a number of the firm’s major, award-winning civil engineering projects. Bob was personally responsible for leading engineering design and/or construction management for many significant projects that helped shape and cultivate not only the landscape of Dallas and cities across Texas and the United States, but the engineering industry as a whole.
Some of his significant projects included the Fort Bliss Expansion Program in Fort Bliss, Texas, one of the largest U.S. public works programs in the last 15 years; Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s (DART) light rail starter system; East Airfield and Apron Expansion Projects for Terminal 2E and 3E at Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport; the McKinney Avenue Trolley systems in Dallas, Texas; and Stonebridge Ranch Planned Community in McKinney, Texas, a project that serves as the standard for master planned communities today.
Bob, along with partner Larry Huitt, founded Huitt-Zollars, Inc. in Dallas in 1975. Since that time, they grew the firm from two employees in Dallas to a nationally ranked firm of over 550 employees, with 20 offices across the United States. Bob was actively involved in the day-to-day management of the firm.
Bob was extremely passionate about helping young professionals develop their talents, flourish, and grow while embracing new challenges in engineering. Within the firm, Bob developed the Huitt-Zollars Leadership Class, a program aimed at mentoring young professionals. During the duration of this program, select engineers had the opportunity to meet with Bob in a small group setting where they would gain valuable professional insight and share their visions for the future and the company.
This passion for supporting young professionals was also seen in his fervent commitment and support of education. Bob encouraged developing talent at a young age by supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education programs at local schools. As an alumnus of Southern Methodist University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, Bob proudly served on the Executive Board for the Lyle School of Engineering and advocated for continued sustainable growth of the Lyle School, especially in the areas of endowments and research. In addition to providing personal scholarship endowments to SMU, he contributed to Universities across the country.
Bob, motivated by his love of engineering, was very active in many professional and technical societies. He was a member of and held various leadership positions for the American Council of Engineering Companies, American Society of Civil Engineers, Design Professionals Coalition, Society of American Military Engineers, Texas Society of Professional Engineers, Texas Engineering Foundation, and the City of Dallas Urban Design Advisory Committee. He also served on the Parkland Hospital Technical Advisory Committee, providing engineering oversight of the design and construction of the new Parkland Hospital complex in Dallas.
His involvement, leadership, and accomplishments to the engineering profession earned him numerous accolades. Bob was named Engineer of the Year by the American Society of Civil Engineers Dallas Branch; Distinguished Speaker by Society of American Military Engineers, Arkansas Post; Southern Methodist University’s Distinguished Alumni; Distinguished Engineer by the Texas Engineering Foundation; and a Fellow of the Texas Engineering Foundation.
Bob’s philosophy of giving back also extended far beyond the engineering profession. He was a Board Member of the Greater Dallas American Diabetes Association (ADA) and Co-Chair of the “Stars of Texas,” the Dallas ADA Fundraising event that raised money to fund diabetes research. Bob also supported and contributed to a number of other organizations.
Throughout his life, Bob excelled in sports. He kept that passion alive in his later years by supporting and attending SMU basketball and Dallas Mavericks games. As an accomplished owner of thoroughbred race horses, he enjoyed watching several of his horses qualify and run in the Kentucky Derby and other major races across the country.
Bob was born on June 21, 1946, in Repton, Alabama, to Marguerite and Leland Zollars. He graduated from Wray High School in Wray, Colorado, and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He was a licensed professional engineer and a registered professional land surveyor. Bob is survived by his beloved wife of 51 years, Catherine Zollars, his sister, Brenda Hancock, and nephew, Jeremy Hoedebeck.