Hall of Distinction Class of 1991-1992

Bert S. Turner was born in Elizabeth, Louisiana, in 1921. His early childhood was spent in Oakdale, Louisiana and Canton, Mississippi. After the death of his father in 1930, Mr. Turner and his mother moved to Grandin, Missouri, his mother’s tiny hometown located in the foothills of the Ozarks. His mother, a grade school teacher, was determined for him to have a good education, therefore, a good start in life. So, when Mr. Turner was a senior in high school, his mother decided that they should leave the Ozarks and move to Baton Rouge. They chose Baton Rouge because his mother understood that Louisiana State University was a good school with high academic standards in its College of Engineering, and because Louisiana’s economy was petroleum based and strong.

Mr. Turner entered Louisiana State University in 1939. It was at LSU that he matured and learned to broaden his vision and interest and to do many things that had no been available to him previously. While a freshman, he worked part time and was able to obtain a scholarship in the LSU Band as part of the Drum and Bugle Corps. He was a member of several honor societies. He learned to fly an airplane under the CPT program, and through this association, he met several good friends who were members of Delta Kappa Epsilon. He joined DKE during his sophomore year and established many of his life-long friendships. The LSU mechanical engineering faculty and certain professors in other related subjects helped him learn to discipline himself and strive for excellence.

Mr. Turner attended LSU straight through for three and one-half years and received his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering in January, 1943. After graduation, he went immediately to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to obtain the equivalent of ROTC Summer Camp and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers. He spent a total of 42 months in an Airborne Aviation Engineer Battalion with 26 months spent in New Guinea, the Philippines, and Japan. His last overseas assignment was as Battalion Commander in Yokohama, Japan.

When he returned to Baton Rouge in 1946, he needed to find his first job as a civilian. He decided to go first to LSU and talk with Professor George Matthes, head of mechanical engineering, to explore the job market and particularly the good opportunities that might exist in the Baton Rouge area. Professor Matthes advised that Esso was the best place, made a phone call, and arranged for his first appointment with them. After interviews with three of their department heads, he was offered a job and started to work about a week later. After 15 months on the job, he received a Teagle Foundation Scholarship from Esso, so, for the next two years, he attended the Harvard Business School. In June 1949, he graduated with distinction, receiving his master’s in business administration. He promptly returned to Esso in Baton Rouge and continued with a series of engineering and management assignments within several departments. He greatly values the training, experience, and education provided by Esso.

It was while he was still employed by Esso, in the course of his purchasing duties, that he met Bob Nichols and decided to join his company. So in 1957, he left Esso and took a position as the assistant to the president of Nichols Construction Company, Inc. This marked the beginning of Mr. Turner’s industrial construction career. However, in 1958, Mr. Nichols died, and Mrs. Nichols succeeded him. She made Mr. Turner the vice-president and general manager of the company. In 1959, Nichols Construction Company, Inc., was sold to YUBA Consolidated Industries, Inc., a conglomerate with headquarters in San Francisco. Nichols Construction became a division of YUBA, and Mr. Turner continued on as the vice-president and general manager of this division.

In 1961, due to the emergence of YUBA’s financial difficulties, Mr. Turner decided to resign in order to start his own company, Nichols Construction Corporation. Over the years, this company has grown and has taken the form of a holding company presently named Turner Industries, Ltd.

Turner Industries, Ltd., its subsidiaries, and related companies offer services to the refining, petro-chemical, paper, power, and other industries across the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas and in six other states. Mr. Turner is presently the chairman and chief executive officer of Turner Industries, Ltd.; Turner Corporation; International Maintenance Corporation; National Maintenance Corporation; Nichols Construction Corporation; Harmony Corporation, Crest, Inc.; Integrated Technical Services, Inc.; Industrial Technical Corporation; Scafco, Ltd.; and International Piping Systems, Ltd.

In addition to providing services to the industrial community, Mr. Turner also has been involved in the banking business. He was named to the Board of Directors of Louisiana National Bank of Baton Rouge in 1960 and continued in that capacity with LNB’s successor, Premier Bancorp, until he retired in June of this year.

Over the years, his civic and community activities have included membership and involvement in the Baton Rouge area’s Jaycees, Chamber of Commerce, Safety Council, Speech and Hearing Foundation, Water Conservation Commission, Area Foundation, Board of Control-East Baton Rouge Parish Library, Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC), Community Services Council, Junior Achievement, Louisiana Labor Management Commission, Louisiana political Action Council (LAPAC), Louisiana State Museum, Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, Public Affairs Research Council, Salvation Army, United Givers Fund, YMCA, and Delta Kappa Epsilon Alumni Association.

He has continued to be active in professional organizations related to the industrial construction and maintenance business. Over the years, he has served on the Board of Directors and/or as president or chairman of the Associated Maintenance Contractors, the Gulf Coast Contractors Labor Policy Committee, the Industrial Contractors Association of Baton Rouge and Vicinity, the Louisiana Contractors Council, the Louisiana Chemical Industry Alliance, the Young Presidents Organization, and the Registered Engineer.

Mr. Turner has continued to have a strong concern and interest in the quality of education in Louisiana, particularly at the college level. He has served on the Tulane Graduate School of Business Administration Advisory Council, Patrick F. Taylor Hall Advisory Board, LSU Department of Mechanical Engineering Advisory Board, LSU Board of Supervisors (Chairman 1987-88), LSU Foundation Board, LSU Alumni Association, and the Louisiana State Board of Regents. He enjoys spectator participation in virtually all of LSU’s varsity sports, particularly football and basketball.

Mr. Turner is married to the former Sue Wilhert of Plaquemine, Louisiana, and he has five children; Susan, Thomas, John, Robert, and Mary.

Since 1939, according to Mr. Turner, LSU has been the vehicle or framework for him to grow as an individual, advance professional, establish long-term personal relationships and friendships, meet and marry his wife of 45 years, raise a family, and thoroughly enjoy a full and thoroughly enjoy a full and meaningful life.