Jeff Hoopes, Civil Engineering '80, a 2013 College of Engineering Distinguished Engineering Alumni Medal Honoree. 
Jeff Hoopes, Civil Engineering '80, a 2013 College of Engineering Distinguished Engineering Alumni Medal Honoree. 

A Building Legacy - Jeff Hoopes


His grandfather was a UC Berkeley civil engineering graduate. But UC Davis ran in his family, too: As a little boy, Hoopes actually lived on the UC Davis campus with his family while his father pursued his Ph.D. in Russian history. After his dad’s hiring as the first professor at Eureka’s College of the Redwoods, Hoopes grew up in Humboldt County enjoying his math studies and participating in summertime survey-crew internships.

“I always enjoyed the engineering side of things so, when it was my turn to go to college, I came back to UC Davis,” he said. “It was a great, low-key community where we always supported each other.”

His first position right out of UC Davis was with Atkinson Construction, where he worked on San Francisco Bay’s Dunbarton Bridge doing field layout, surveying and more. And while with Atkinson, Hoopes was tapped for a unique project straight out of his civil engineering schooling.

“At UC Davis, I was tasked to design a form system for a nuclear power containment facility,” he said. “I designed the project and did all the calculations. Then at Atkinson, I needed to design a nuclear power containment facility – a massive project. I used everything I learned on my school project and presented my plan to the federal government. The project was approved and took six months to complete, but I learned it all at UC Davis.”

Hoopes returned to school at Brigham Young University for an MBA degree, and then joined commercial-construction company Swinterton, Inc., in 1984. Starting out as an assistant estimator to learn the business, he then moved up as project engineer. Now, nearly 36 years on, he is the company’s CEO and chair, and is enthusiastic about the company’s growth and accomplishments over the decades.

“We took a small local business and expanded it across the United States,” he said, noting that current projects include the state-of-the-art, mixed-use $2.1-billion Oceanwide Center in San Francisco. “It’s been a lot of fun: I’ve never been bored a day in my life!”

Hoopes continues to construct company success by hiring numerous civil engineers and construction managers just like himself.

“Some people don’t look at construction as a career, but it’s exciting building massive projects and being a part of a team,” he said. “When I visit UC Davis, I tell the students to pick a career they’re passionate about: You can both build a business and impact lives.”

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