Raymond G. Curry, Jr.
Class of 1954, BS
Ray Curry Jr. started in the family construction business at age 14 working during summers and holidays, and later helped lead his father’s company before breaking out on his own by founding two more companies, all in the Washington, D.C., area, where he still resides. He helped build the Market Square Project and the Watergate Complex, a project controversial for its building style and design. He has worked on more than 300 high-rise concrete construction projects in the Washington, D.C., area.
Mr. Curry was the first to attend college in his family. “I was the first person [in my family] to have that opportunity,” he says. “I thought I should take full advantage of it.” But college was not his first plan.
Many of his construction coworkers were World War II veterans who encouraged the high school teen to further his education. “I never really had an interest,” Mr. Curry says. “They told me to go to college and make something of myself.” He graduated from Virginia Tech in 1954 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.
After college, Mr. Curry served in the Army Corps of Engineers from 1955 until 1957 as a project engineer in Okinawa in the continuing post-World War II rebuilding efforts in Japan. He supervised the building of air fields, highways, radar bases, fire stations, water and sewage treatment facilities, and apartment buildings.
When Mr. Curry returned to the States, he also returned to the family business, MOSES-ECCO, a high-rise concrete construction company. His father co-owned the company with three other men, purchased from a man with the surname Moses. The men kept the name Moses as a sign of respect, while “ECCO” comes from the initials of each of the owner’s last names. Mr. Curry worked his way his way up from engineer to superintendent and shareholder.
One of his earliest projects was the Watergate Complex, a series of office buildings, condos and a hotel, plus shopping center that sported a then-groundbreaking post-tension concrete job, and was designed — by Italian architect Luigi Moretti — as a series of curved buildings, with no straight angles. He poured 17,500 square feet of concrete per day and completed a floor every four days. “It was all built on radials, constantly changing curves,” Mr. Curry says. “It was very difficult putting in post-tension cables in something like that.”
In 1970, Mr. Curry broke out on his own and formed SMC Concrete Construction Inc. He chose the high-rise concrete industry in keeping with his education and prior family work experience. He spanned his business clientele south to Richmond, Virginia, and north to Baltimore, Maryland.
His career-favorite project is the 1-million-squarefoot Market Square in Washington, D.C., located directly across from the National Archives, and designed to blend in as a historical building. Other landmarks he was involved with: The Library of Congress’s National Audio Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia, and Tyson’s Corner Shopping Mall — one of the nation’s larger shopping malls, and Jefferson Square, a multi-use high-rise complex. The Conservation Center features curved, cast-in-place exposed architectural concrete walls, and an environmentally green roof system, which helps filter pollutants and carbon-dioxide out of the air; it also reduces heating and cooling loads on the structure. His buildings have won numerous awards.
Mr. Curry started Curry Development Inc. during the 1980s, focusing on the office and apartment sectors, townhouses, single-family houses, retail centers, and an industrial park. His company built what he calls the first affordable housing projects in Fairfax, Virginia, for lower-income families. The company also renovated abandoned apartment buildings inside the Beltway.
He then jumped into banking in the 1990s with Bank of Alexandria, first as a stockholder and buyer, then as president and chairman of the board. It was a different way to learn a business. He grew the bank and then sold it to F&M Bank.
Mr. Curry’s post-military work also had him traveling abroad. During the late 1960s, he spent time examining concrete industry products in Europe. His task: look at then-innovative applications of pouring concrete to see if their design systems could translate overseas to America.
He also traveled to Saudi Arabia several times in the late 1970s, working as a consultant for Aeromaritime Ltd., on precast plants and precast houses along the Yemen border. But as late 1970s Middle East turmoil grew tumultuous, his work there was abruptly stopped and he returned home.
Mr. Curry and his wife, Madelyn, are members of the Ut Prosim Society, and have given several donations to scholarship funds, established the Raymond and Madelyn Curry Graduate Fellowship, and helped fund the expansion of the university’s structural engineering lab, originally opened in 1990 and expanded several times. Mr. Curry’s donation helped build offices and meeting rooms for graduate students working in the lab. The facility was rededicated as the Ray and Madelyn Curry Education Wing and the Thomas M. Murray Structural Engineering Laboratory in 2009.
“Students get to experience the practical side of structural design, because they typically have to design and construct their own specimens,” says Carin Roberts-Wollmann, the lab’s director and a professor of civil engineering. “They build formwork, tie reinforcing steel and cast concrete.”
Thomas Murray, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a retired professor from the College of Engineering who founded the lab, says the facility’s impact on students is immediate. “I have had happy employers ask, ‘What have you done directly with these guys because they have a different outlook on how to put things together.’ And that comes from working in the lab,” he said.
Mr. Curry is a member of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors, the D.C. Metropolitan Subcontractors Association, Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, Alexandria Building Industry Association, District of Columbia Building Industry Association, National Association of Industrial and Office Parks, American Society for Concrete Construction, American Concrete Institute, Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute, and Metropolitan Washington Chapter of Associated Builder and Contractors.
He is starting his second term on the Alumni Board of the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Virginia Tech. He was inducted into the department’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2007.
Mr. Curry retired from SMC Concrete Construction, Inc. in June 2011. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and has four daughters and seven grandchildren.
Class of: 1954
Year Inducted into Academy: 2012