Go West, Young Man… Go East, Old Man
Raised in Chicago, Mack attended Illinois Institute of Technology before transferring in 1976 to Stanford University for his junior year. It didn’t take the first time around; he left school and traveled the Western United States until the money ran out. He joined the Job Corp and moved to Oregon, where he completed a pre-apprenticeship in carpentry at a USDA facility in the Umpqua National Forest.
Mack worked as a union carpenter in Washington D.C., Charlottesville and his native town, Chicago, honing his skills in both high-rise commercial and residential projects. With a clear picture of life as a working carpenter, he went back to Stanford in 1986 to complete a Masters and Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering, with a focus on construction management. One of Mack’s professors was Ben Brungraber, who was embarking on an unusual quest to becoming a Doctor of Joints (mortise and tenon joinery). They formed a productive partnership; Mack started out as Ben’s teaching assistant for his surveying class and took over the class the following year. He also participated in Ben’s in-depth Ph.D. research. Those years were fruitful in various ways. Mack left school with a Masters degree and two young sons in tow.
After graduation, Mack joined Owens Corning’s Corporate Engineering group in Toledo, Ohio as a project engineer, a career sidetracked by an intriguing offer to join Riverbend Timber Framing. Here Mack gained more real-world experience with timber frame construction, developing skills that promptly earned him the role of director of operations. He learned much during this tenure in the growing timber framing industry, including that it’s hard to beat a corporate salary. He returned to Owens Corning for a ten-year stint as construction manager, engineering manager, production manager, global safety leader, laboratory leader and sourcing leader.
An independence streak can be denied only so long. Mack went back into timber framing, joining Cascade Joinery as their general manager, then briefly Blue Ridge Timberwrights, before reuniting with his old partner Ben to establish Fire Tower in Providence, Rhode Island. The dream team quickly established Fire Tower as one of the field’s preeminent engineering and design firms, a reputation that will continue to grow as long as Mack can just sit still.