Dennis Dunne, a pioneer of California’s prison building program in the 1980s, died Feb. 12, 2010. The San Francisco native was 74.
During a career that spanned five decades, Dunne was an integral figure in California government construction. In a period of 12 years, he worked within the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Planning and Construction Division to lead the development and creation of 21 new prisons.
In the early 1980s, Dunne was instrumental in bringing together a small team of state and private professionals to build and open the California State Prison at Solano in eight months – a facility that, at the time, the media dubbed “the miracle prison” for the speed at which it was completed.
Dunne’s early work in California prison construction helped pave the way for the state’s New Prison Construction Program to become a highly respected national model. The innovative program is known largely for its public-private partnerships.
As an early proponent of construction management services, Dunne signed California’s first CM contract in 1979 for the Department of Developmental Services. From 1978 to 1983, he was a key contributor to the State Hospital Renovation Program. Dunne was also an early supporter of the Construction Management Association of American.
In 1987, Dunne retired from state government to work as a senior vice president for Sacramento-based Kitchell CEM Inc.
He returned to public-sector work in 1991 when he joined Santa Clara County as its first director of facilities. In that position, Dunne led a cutting-edge building program that resulted in the design and construction of the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, a hospital still recognized as the most advanced acute-care facility in the San Jose area.
In 2000, Gov. Gray Davis appointed Dunne as chief deputy director of the Department of General Services. From 2000 to 2002, Dunne improved the DGS’s management processes for designing and building state facilities. In 2002, Dunne became an active consultant for California’s Administrative Office of the Courts, working on its Facilities Task Force for the statewide Courthouse Construction Program.
Most recently, Dunne worked as a consultant to the CDCR in implementing a new multibillion-dollar prison construction program — the fifth and final major government-building program in which he was involved. In 2008, the U.S. district court receiver for prison health care services hired Dunne as a consultant to oversee a $6 billion medical facility-building program.
Dunne’s friends and family called him “a true leader” and a person who gave himself wholeheartedly to each project he worked on.
“Along with many others, I loved Dennis for his selfless view of the world,” says Andy Morgan, vice president and justice market leader for Vanir Construction Inc. “It was always about the people, the projects and moving ahead. It was never about Dennis.”
Kevin Carruth, former undersecretary for California’s Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, referred to Dunne as a man who “built organizations that got things done.”
“His desire for speed, quality, cost control, and continuous improvement were values that he imprinted on all of us,” says Carruth. “The program Dennis started from scratch built two-thirds of the current CDCR capacity by the late 1990s. That legacy will stand for decades, probably a century or more, serving as a silent tribute to Dennis Dunne.”
Dunne served on the National Research Council’s Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment and was named a member of the CMAA’s College of Fellows. In 2009, he was elected chancellor of the College of the Fellows for his incredible work within the organization.