Jeff and Mary Ehret: Providing Support, Outreach and Insight
Jeff Ehret, president and founder of The PENTA Building Group, feels a sense of duty to the school that launched his career, and he has given significant money for the construction of College Avenue Commons, the school’s new home, as well as other efforts.
In 1976, Ehret earned a bachelor’s degree in construction management from the Del E. Webb School of Construction, part of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.
“I had such a fantastic experience in the construction program,” Ehret said. “It was everything I could have hoped for. I have had an amazing career, and my education at the Del E. Webb School of Construction played a huge role in allowing me to do so.
“For me, it is a personal obligation to give back. I want to spread the good word about the program to others.”
Ehret said that, while in school, he got to know his fellow students and faculty well and developed great, lifelong relationships.
“I had the same faculty for four years,” he said. “I respected all of them. I had the intimate experience of the School of Construction, but still had the benefits of being part of a large university. It is still a small school, so you are not just a face in crowd.”
Ehret also has an MBA from ASU, which he said gave him a broader and deeper business background to help him run his company.
Ehret’s wife, Mary, is also an enthusiastic supporter of ASU and is involved in all of the couple’s donations. She has been a generous donor, volunteer and champion of Women & Philanthropy since 2008, often bringing in new investors to the group, which was founded in 2002 to advance ASU and higher education in Arizona. Mary also is active in the Wings of Gold program, which raises money for ASU women’s athletic programs. And she is committed to the Del E. Webb School of Construction.
The Ehrets’ support has enabled the Del E. Webb School of Construction to fund a full-time recruiter based at the school who works throughout Arizona, as well as in the Las Vegas area, where PENTA is based, and in Southern California, to recruit high school students and potential transfers from community colleges.
They also fund several scholarships and they have funded an endowment to defray expenses for students going to various student competitions throughout the United States, including the annual Associated Schools of Construction National Students’ Competition in Reno, Nevada.
Ehret’s company also provides students from the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment with internships so they can gain handson experience. Ehret, along with many other alumni and industry supporters, has given presentations about the school to groups of high school teachers and guidance counselors at high schools and community colleges, and to incoming freshmen and undeclared majors at ASU.
“The alumni and the Industry Advisory Council are very active in supporting the school,” he said. “We assist the recruiter by participating in presentations. We talk to students with a background or affinity for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). We want to get them exposed to the program and let them know it leads to a fantastic career in construction management.”
Founded in 2000, The Penta Groups has done 500 projects in 14 years, much of it in the Southwest, including Nevada, California, Arizona, and in Indian Country. But they also have clients from Hawaii to the East Coast and throughout the world.
“ASU alumni from the past five decades are represented in our company,” Ehret said.
Ehret said Del E. Webb grads have strong technical skills and soft skills, and are quick learners.
“They absorb job knowledge like a sponge,” he said. “It’s amazing to see their growth after just a couple of years.
They start with a great foundation from the school and come in with their eyes wide open.” Ehret recently toured College Avenue Commons.
“I think it’s terrific,” he said. “It’s even better than I expected. I like the central atrium portion with the seating and large screens and the various student gathering areas.”
Ehret also sits on the construction school’s executive boards of the Industry Advisory Council and Construction in Indian Country, and serves on the Trustees of Arizona State University Foundation, a board made up of leadership donors who serve as an advisory body for the university and ASU
President Michael M. Crow. They advise Crow on philanthropic opportunities, provide insight into new resources for the university and offer strategies for increasing affinity of donors for the institution.
“ASU has such a variety of experiences, both academic and extracurricular,” Ehret said. “Part of President Crow’s vision is that ASU is about who we include, not who we exclude. If you meet ASU’s qualifications, there should be a place for you. It is a great philosophy. It is about excellence, too, and we have a high number of Fulbright and other renowned scholars to prove it. We’re at the top of a lot of lists because we’re good at so many things.”