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In Memoriam: Wink Ames, dedicated supporter of construction education at ASU

Above: Wink Ames (right) seen with Kaira Colburn, recipient of the 2018-2019 Ames Family Scholarship at the 2019 Fulton Schools Donor Appreciation Breakfast.

William “Wink” Ames, a longtime friend and supporter of the Del E. Webb School of Construction at Arizona State University, passed away late last year.

Wink’s life had an enormous impact that included advancing the construction industry as well as building and promoting ASU’s Del E. Webb School of Construction. Wink’s vision, passion for the industry and the care he showed to each person he interacted with created a legacy that will live on with those he connected with, the stars he gave for good deeds and the projects that he supported and built.

Through the years, Wink and his tireless work supported others and accumulated many awards and points of recognition.

Wink was the founder and major donor for the $1.5 million Beaver-Ames Chair in Heavy Construction at ASU, which established a faculty position to support heavy construction education. 

His advocacy to increase the number of minority contractors in the construction industry earned Wink a place in the Associated Minority Contractors of Arizona Hall of Fame.

Edd Gibson, the Professor and the Sunstate Chair of Construction Management and Engineering in the Del E. Webb School of Construction, says Wink’s contributions and involvement with ASU have advanced the university’s construction programs. ASU’s construction program is part of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the six schools in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU.

“He was a great friend and a wonderful supporter of the Del E. Webb School of Construction,” says Gibson, former program chair of the school, noting that Wink’s contributions have advanced ASU’s construction programs.

Commitment to the construction industry

Wink grew up in the construction industry and followed in the footsteps of his father, Bill Ames, who started a bonding and insurance firm in northern California in 1939.

Debby Anderson, an account executive at INSURICA Southwest and a former colleague of Wink’s, said his energy and drive to help people were what made him a standout in the industry.

After four years in the Air Force as a fighter pilot then starting a construction career in California, “Wink came to Arizona in the 1970s to open a branch office of Corroon & Black-Miller & Ames, with two major accounts to service, M. M. Sundt Construction and The Tanner Companies,” Anderson says. “That’s when I met him. He hired me at the age of 18 as the front desk receptionist. Over the next 40 years, he devoted himself to the construction and surety industries, tirelessly engaging with those who became not just his customers but his friends.”

Wink often described himself as a contractor dressed up like a bonding agent, Anderson says. He set a high bar for the people who worked alongside him but the reward was helping others reach their goals.

“As we would wrap up a lunch meeting,” Anderson recalls, “his parting comment would usually be, ‘Well, let’s all get back to doing America’s work!’”

Wink’s impact on individuals and the construction industry was far-reaching, building his company and practice from relationships and the support of the people he encountered. As he built Minard/Ames, the firm soon became the top insurance broker in Arizona, often recognized as the best practice agency in the valley.  The company he built, now known as INSURICA Southwest, is thriving thanks to the foundations, mentoring and connections of individuals established by Wink.

“Suffice it to say that his energy and passion for the industry and for helping people was real and was recognized by every construction-related association in which he participated,” Anderson says. “He served in leadership and teaching, often from breakfast through dinner many days each week in order to meet with people to see how he could help. He wasn’t focused on wealth; he always said if we do our jobs this way, the revenue would follow.”

Bolstering ASU construction management education

Wink began his relationship with ASU in 1979 as a member of the industry committee responsible for building the John W. Schwada Classroom Office Building on the Tempe campus in 1979, and since that time his support has been the catalyst for continued success.

Later in 1982, he helped establish the Del E. Webb School of Construction Research Advisory Council, now called the Industry Advisory Council. This council provides support and connection to the industry helping build and now continue our ranking at the top Construction Management program in the nation. Wink went on to serve as the recruitment and recognition chairman of the school’s Industry Advisory Council in 1987. Under his leadership, the school produced a new video recruiting tape, started an open house to encourage student recruitment and established the annual Construction Recognition Banquet – a program continued today honoring alumni and industry support.

Through the years, Wink raised approximately $23 million to support new faculty in the school and was a key proponent in developing ASU’s construction management program and their home in the new College Avenue Commons building. While Wink was not the official program chair of the College Avenue Commons building, he inspired and connected the community to ensure its success engaging faculty and staff with industry partners and government officials.

Michael Remedi, former director of development and now associate dean and executive director of development in the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU, was another one of Wink’s collaborators.

“When I first met Wink back in 2005, he asked to meet with me on a Saturday morning to review a list of possible donors toward the capital campaign in support of the Del E. Webb School of Construction,” Remedi says. “While I thought it was unique to meet on a weekend morning, I was happy to connect with a volunteer. Wink and I then met almost every Saturday morning that year, reviewing names and discussing strategies. I was so impressed with the depth of knowledge that he had of industry players both in Arizona and regionally. These meetings became my favorite to have all week.”

As a recognition for his impact, the Beavers Charitable Foundation partnered with the Association of General Contractors, and several others alongside Wink to establish the Beaver-Ames Chair in Heavy Construction started with a gift of $500,000 from the Beavers Charitable Trust and as well as $300,000 from the Ames family and associates.

In addition to his fundraising efforts to support ASU’s development, Wink was also involved with uplifting and empowering students entering the construction industry, serving as a guest lecturer in undergraduate senior as well as graduate construction courses for nearly 40 years.

Individually, Wink believed that diversity was incredibly important. He and his children established the Ames Family Scholarship to help minority students going through ASU’s construction program establishing an endowment currently valued at $445,000.

For his work and contributions, Wink received several accolades from ASU over the years, including the Plus One Award in 1992, the Del E. Webb School of Construction Hall of Fame election in 1995, the Campaign for Leadership in 1999 and the ASU Alumni Appreciation Award in 2007.

Wink had an outsized impact on Arizona, on the construction industry, and ASU through the Del E. Webb School of Construction, but more than this, he had an outsized impact on people.

“Wink was not just an incredible volunteer that helped secure gifts, he became a mentor and friend,” Remedi says. “His ability to connect with people was inspiring and I learned a great deal from him. We work with many volunteers in our fundraising profession but I will never meet another one that will rise to his level. I am blessed to have known Wink Ames.”

About The Author

Karishma Albal

Student Science/Technology Writer Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

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