The University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business has named Dennis Washington, founder of The Washington Companies, as their Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year (DEYA) for 2014.
“Dennis fits the criteria for this award perfectly,” says Peter B. Gustavson, founder and chair of the DEYA committee. “The award was created over 10 years ago to celebrate the achievements of an inspirational entrepreneur who has had a significant and positive impact on the global community through his or her business leadership. Dennis exceeds the bar we set back then, in spades.”
Washington was born in Spokane, Washington, in 1934. By the age of 14, he was self-sufficient, earning money by boxing groceries, delivering newspapers, shining shoes at a railroad depot, and working as a mechanic in service stations.
“Dennis was an entrepreneur and a very hard worker by an early age. He grew up with little wealth, so he understood the importance of hard work and the value of money,” says Gustavson.
After high school, Washington went to Alaska to pursue a job in heavy construction. Two years later, he returned to Montana and worked for his uncle who owned a construction company. By age 26, he was vice-president of the largest construction company in Montana. Three years later he went into business for himself. By 1969, he was the largest contractor in Montana; within 10 years, Washington Construction would be listed among the largest in the nation.
“It’s all possible because of teamwork, and people with a passion for their work,” says Washington.
The Washington Companies now comprise more than a dozen affiliated companies—including Seaspan—that are leaders in rail and marine transportation, ship building and repair, mining, environmental remediation, heavy-equipment distribution, and aviation.
“We’re incredibly pleased that Dennis will accept our award,” says Dr. Saul Klein, dean of the business school. “He’s been recognized internationally for his business accomplishments and his philanthropic work with his wife, Phyllis. His coming to Victoria to accept the award is recognition of the hard work being done at Gustavson and, of course, the importance of Seaspan and its associated companies to the BC economy.”
Washington’s business and community accomplishments will be celebrated at a DEYA black-tie gala on June 4 in Victoria.
This is the eleventh year the award has been given, with previous honourees including: last year’s recipient Brandt Louie, chairman and CEO of H.Y. Louie Co. Ltd. and board chairman of London Drugs; JR Shaw, founder of Shaw Communications Inc.; and inaugural recipient Jeff Mallett, the former president and chief operating officer of Yahoo! Inc.