Tribute to a Project Management Pioneer


John Fondahl: 1924 – 2008




John Fondahl, PMI Fellow, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California passed away on 13 September 2008 in California.  One of the early pioneers of modern project management, John Fondahl was an active participant in the startup and early days of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the construction management profession in the United States.

According to the official obituary published in Los Altos, California:

“John Walker Fondahl passed away S e p t e m b e r 13, 2008 from melanoma cancer at home with his family at age 83. John was born on November 4, 1924 in Washington D.C.  He met his future wife, Doris-Jane Plishker, in 1939 at McKinley Tech. He graduated valedictorian in 1941. He entered Worcester Polytechnic Institute. After Pearl Harbor, John joined the US Marine Corps, serving in the Pacific Theater in the Fifth Amphibious Corps. Both he, a sergeant, and his father, a Lt. Colonel in a different outfit, were Iwo-Jima survivors. Upon returning from the Pacific, John received a scholarship to Dartmouth College. He married Doris in 1946. John received his MS in civil engineering from Dartmouth in 1947.

John worked as an engineer with the American Bridge Company in Pittsburg, PA in 1947 – 48, taught civil engineering at the University of Hawaii from 1948 to 1951, and moved to Sacramento to work with Winston Brothers and the Al Johnson Construction Company as project engineer on the Nimbus Dam from 1952 to 1955. In 1955 he became a professor of civil engineering at Stanford and co-founded the Construction Management Program. He taught at Stanford for 35 years, retiring in 1990, and served as the first Charles H. Leavell Professor of Civil Engineering.

He was recognized worldwide as an expert on the Critical Path Method for construction management, was a founder of the Project Management Institute (PMI), and president of the Construction Data Systems Corporation. John’s “Non-Computer Approach to the Critical Path Method for the Construction Industry” sold over 20,000 copies in 20 languages. John taught construction management courses worldwide.

He served on the boards of Caterpillar and Scott Co. He received the Golden Beaver Award for Heavy Engineering Construction in 1975, was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 1993, and to the National Academy of Construction (NAC) in 2001. The family has lived in Los Altos Hills since 1965. John and Doris have been long-time supporters of local theater groups including Bus Barn, ACT and Theaterworks. John always enjoyed sharing a bottle of Ridge wine with his family. Upon retirement, John became a full-time gardener and producer of soups, jams and preserves. John loved Lake Tahoe and hikes to Crag Lake. John and Doris loved traveling worldwide.

Throughout his life people noted his integrity, his stoicism, and his wisdom to stay quiet until he had reflected on matters of importance. John is survived by his wife of 62 years, Doris, daughters Lauren, Gail, Meredith and Dorian, son-in-laws Ken Bilski and Joe Martinka, David Wickline, and grandchildren Gwynne Bilski and Arielle and Peter Martinka. A memorial will be held at the Stanford Memorial Church 4:00 pm October 28th.  Donations may be made to the John Fondahl Fellowship, Stanford University, P.O. Box 20466, Stanford, CA 94309.”

Here are some additional notes and tributes received since learning of John’s passing:


To read entire tribute, click here

Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. This tribute was originally published in the October 2008 edition of PM World Today, which is no longer online. It is being republished so that John’s story is not lost and can be archived in the History of Project Management section of the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/ppm-profession/

How to cite this paper: PM World Journal (2023). Tribute to a Project Management Pioneer – John Fondahl: 1924 – 2008; originally published in the October 2008 edition of PM World Today; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue I, January. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/pmwj125-Jan2023-Tribute-to-project-management-pioneer-John-Fondahl-1924-2008.pdf