“Sam was the true original, genuine, minority construction contractor in the St. Louis region,” Brian Hutchinson, no relation, said of Sam Hutchinson, Interface Construction Corporation founder and chairman. “Sam taught me business ethics and how to reach back and help others. He helped me take my company, Competitive Performance Specifications, from a local mechanical contractor to a regional and then national construction management consulting firm.”
Sam Hutchinson, 77, died in his sleep on Friday, January 8, 2021.
Hutchinson began his professional career as an engineer at Shell Oil Research in Wood River, Illinois. As an African American in 1970’s corporate America, Hutchinson found few opportunities for significant advancement. Thus, in 1978, he took his savings and founded Interface Construction Corporation.
Today, Interface is an award-winning, full-service general contracting and construction management firm.
As a contractor who happened to be Black, Hutchinson marched to the beat of his own drummer. He ran his business on his own terms and with excellence and integrity. It is no surprise that he would often recite one of his favorite phrases, from the poem Invictus, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
After founding Interface, Hutchinson went on to gain many professional and personal accolades, continuously breaking barriers for Black Americans in construction, engineering, and business.
He served on several national Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) committees on diversity and he was a six-time member of its executive board. AGC is the nation’s leading construction industry trade association.
One of Hutchinson’s proudest accomplishments was serving as 2009 AGC National Treasurer, only the second minority to be a national officer in the organization’s 91-year history. Hutchinson also served as chairman of AGC’s Building Division, the first Black American to hold this position, where he promoted the growth of construction charter schools as a way to attract more young people of diverse races and backgrounds to the industry.
“Sam brought to national AGC an awareness of the real barriers that minority contractors face every day in business,” said 2010 National AGC President Ted Aadland. “He co-chaired a task force with minority and women owned business associations and helped pioneer methods to remove those barriers. His work on the national AGC’s Stemple plan provided mentorship to underutilized contractors across the country.”
When Interface was located in Wood River, Hutchinson was president of the Southern Illinois Builders Association, a local AGC chapter. He also served on the board of education for the Construction Careers Charter School.
Outside of construction, Hutchinson served for several years on the board of directors of the holding company for A.G. Edwards & Sons, where he was also chairman of the firm’s nominating committee. He also served on several non-profit and advisory boards.
He particularly enjoyed mentoring budding entrepreneurs at the Chaifetz Center for Entrepreneurship at St. Louis University, his alma mater.
“There were no limits to what Sam was willing to do to help students, staff and faculty,” said Jennifer Ehlen, former Center director. “He was such an inspiration to all of us.”
While Hutchinson excelled in business, he had a passion for life, family and friends. In 1991, he married the love of his life, Laurna Godwin.
An avid hunter, skier and fisherman, some of Hutchinson’s favorite places were Wyoming and Oregon. He always brought home enough antelope or elk to dazzle his family, friends, employees and clients with his famous chili. Hutchinson was also a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
Growing up, his children, Gerard and Graquel, remember him as every dad. “He used to wake me up in the middle of the night sometimes to check out the stars in the sky and to talk philosophy,” his daughter, Graquel Schaeffer, said. “It made me want to become an educator.”
Schaeffer added that her father was among the loudest spectators encouraging them, as well as all of their friends, during hundreds of sporting events and performances. He never missed an event.
Hutchinson was also a surrogate father and mentor to numerous friends, nieces and cousins. He will always be remembered and appreciated for his sage advice.
Hutchinson graduated from Charles H. Sumner High School where he was later inducted into its Hall of Fame. He continued his education at Harris Junior College, and then earned a B.S. in industrial engineering from St. Louis University.
In addition to his wife, Laurna, and his children Gerard and Graquel (husband Chris), survivors include grandsons Alex and James, sister-in-law Mignon and nieces Jocelyn, Leesa, Jordan and Sienna. He leaves behind numerous cousins, colleagues and friends, particularly his “brother” Ted and “brother-in-law” Michael. Sam was preceded in death by his grandson Shaun and his parents.
The family will hold a private memorial service and burial on Saturday, Jan. 16 with a Celebration of Life and jazz concert at Jazz at the Bistro post COVID-19.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Elmer Godwin Endowed Scholarship for undergraduate minority engineering students at Rutgers University. Elmer was Sam’s father-in-law.
To donate online, click Give to Rutgers and specify Elmer Godwin Endowed Scholarship at
If you prefer to send a check, please mail to: Rutgers University Foundation, PO Box 193, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903-0193. Make the donation payable to Rutgers University Foundation and in the memo, note Elmer Godwin Endowed Scholarship.