Co-founder and Chairman of Dallas-based engineering and architecture firm, Robert “Bob” L. Zollars, PE, RPLS, passed away at age 72 on April 20 in Dallas.
Zollars along with partner Larry Huitt founded Huitt-Zollars Inc. in Dallas in 1975. They grew the firm from two employees in Dallas to a nationally ranked firm of over 550 employees, with 20 offices across the United States. Zollars was actively involved in the day-to-day management of the firm.
Zollars’ career spanned nearly five decades, most recently serving as chairman and CEO. He was also Principal-in-Charge and Project Manager for a number of the firm’s major, award-winning civil engineering projects. Zollars was personally responsible for leading engineering design and/or construction management for many significant projects that helped shape and cultivate not only the landscape of Dallas and cities across Texas and the United States, but also the engineering industry as a whole.
Significant projects of Zollars’ included the Fort Bliss Expansion Program in Fort Bliss, Texas, one of the largest U.S. public works programs in the last 15 years; Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s (DART) light rail starter system; East Airfield and Apron Expansion Projects for Terminal 2E and 3E at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport; the McKinney Avenue Trolley systems in Dallas, and Stonebridge Ranch Planned Community in McKinney, a project that serves as the standard for master planned communities today.
Zollars was extremely passionate about helping young professionals develop their talents, flourish, and grow while embracing new challenges in engineering. Within the firm, he developed the Huitt-Zollars Leadership Class, a program aimed at mentoring young professionals. During the duration of this program, select engineers had the opportunity to meet with Zollars in a small group setting where they would gain valuable professional insight and share their visions for the future and the company.
This passion for supporting young professionals was also seen in his fervent commitment to and support of education. Zollars encouraged the development of talent among young students by supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education programs at local schools. As an alumnus of SMU, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, Zollars proudly served on the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering Executive Board, where he advocated for continued sustainable growth of the Lyle School, especially in the areas of endowments and research. He personally established scholarship endowments at SMU and at other Universities across the country.
Motivated by his love of engineering, Zollars was very active in many professional and technical societies. He was a member of and held various leadership positions for the American Council of Engineering Companies; American Society of Civil Engineers; Design Professionals Coalition; Society of American Military Engineers; Texas Society of Professional Engineers; Texas Engineering Foundation, and the City of Dallas Urban Design Advisory Committee. He also served on the Parkland Hospital Technical Advisory Committee, where he provided engineering oversight of the design and construction of the new Parkland Hospital complex in Dallas.
His involvement, leadership, and accomplishments to the engineering profession earned him numerous accolades. He was named Engineer of the Year by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Dallas Branch; Distinguished Speaker by Society of American Military Engineers, Arkansas Post; Southern Methodist University’s Distinguished Alumni; Distinguished Engineer by the Texas Engineering Foundation; and a Fellow of the Texas Engineering Foundation.
Zollars’ philosophy of giving back also extended far beyond the engineering profession, and he supported and contributed to a number of organizations. He served as a Board Member of the Greater Dallas American Diabetes Association (ADA) and Co-Chair of the “Stars of Texas,” an event to raise money for diabetes research.
Throughout his life, he excelled in sports. Zollars kept that passion alive in his later years by supporting and attending SMU Mustangs and Dallas Mavericks basketball games. As an accomplished owner of thoroughbred race horses, he enjoyed watching several of his horses qualify and run in the Kentucky Derby and other major races across the country.
He was born on June 21, 1946, in Repton, Alabama, to Marguerite and Leland Zollars. He graduated from Wray High School in Wray, Colorado, and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from Southern Methodist University. Zollars was a licensed professional engineer and a registered professional land surveyor. He is survived by his beloved wife of 51 years, Catherine Zollars, his sister, Brenda Hancock, and his nephew, Jeremy Hoedebeck.
A Memorial Service will be held at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, at SMU’s Martha Proctor Mack Grand Ballroom in Umphrey Lee Center, 3300 Dyer Street. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Steven Leach, M.D. Endowed Scholarship Fund which provides scholarships for UT Southwestern medical students. Donations may be sent to:
Southwestern Medical Foundation
3889 Maple Avenue, Suite 100
Dallas, TX 75219