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Lehman Roberts Executive Falls for a City of Generosity

The following article is featured in the 2017 Spring Issue of Memphis Crossroads MagazineClick here to read more from this issue. 

He planned to serve humanity by becoming a doctor, but 45-year-old Patrick Nelson’s life took a turn on the freeway of life. He got a job with a roadway construction company in 1993, and he never looked back. In the few short years after arriving in Memphis to study biology, he’d fallen in love with a city, a woman and an industry.

“I’m much more suited to what I’m doing today,” said Nelson, now president of Lehman-Roberts, one of the region’s significant producers of asphalt. “I stumbled into an industry with great people. It attracts great people. We care for communities.”

Even though Nelson decided not to go to medical school, he still had a service-orientated heart. He found he could serve humankind by building roads that connect people to each other and to products. And he could serve by involving himself in charitable and civic causes through the work of a family foundation, his church, and the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle.

Nelson grew up in Birmingham, Ala. He came to Memphis to study at Rhodes College, and he met his wife Catherine while attending Second Presbyterian Church. “Absolutely fell in love with the city, as well as my wife,” said Nelson.

With the medical field crowded, Nelson decided to delay medical school. He got a job with Memphis Stone and Gravel Co., a Lehman-Roberts affiliate acquired in 1972 to provide a long-term source of aggregate. Nelson worked on the drill crew. He discovered he loved the work and loved the people he worked with. He rose through the ranks. His father-in-law, Richard Moore, who headed Lehman-Roberts between 1997 and 2012, groomed his son-in-law for leadership. In 2012, Nelson was named president. He is the third son-in-law at the helm of Lehman-Roberts.

Founded in 1939 and owner of eight asphalt plants in the region, the 350-employee company’s recent accounts have included the 790-acre Electrolux campus, where 20,000 tons of asphalt was used. Lehman-Roberts also worked on Bass Pro Shops and supplied material for Ikea’s paving. “You can’t drive across something in this city without touching something we’ve built in the last 78 years,” Nelson said.

Nelson involves himself in causes industry-wide as a board member on the Tennessee Road Builders Association, a trade organization. Kent Starwalt, an executive vice president and a former pre-med student like Nelson, understands Nelson’s attraction to road construction as a way to serve the community. “What we do is really in the public’s best interest so people can have personal mobility and obtain delivery of goods,” said Starwalt.

While he travels often for his work or pilots to a beach city for recreation, Memphis is where Nelson’s heart resides. One of the reasons he loves Memphis is because of its generosity. “Not just with money,” he said. “People are generous with their time and energies.”

Nelson and Lehman-Roberts share that spirit of generosity. Each year, family members set aside a certain amount of income for a family foundation, Mercy for Memphis, which works on education, community development and evangelist causes. Nelson is active at Second Presbyterian, where he is an elder, and involves himself and his company in Memphis Clean by 2019, an initiative of the Chairman’s Circle, of which he is a member. Situated near the Soulsville, Lehman-Roberts participates on select work days to clear debris-strewed lots, build flower beds and pick up litter. “You can get a lot done in a day,” Nelson said. “Our employees really enjoy it.”

Nelson applauded the Chamber’s initiative that led to the creation of the Chairman’s Circle and moon missions like the cleanup initiative. He called efforts to be more self-supporting “a brilliant move” and affirmed that business leaders “can affect change so much better together than individually.”

As pastor of Second Presbyterian, Sandy Willson has known Nelson for more than 20 years, since the time the road construction executive was a college student. Nelson’s generosity, Willson said, stems from his faith and from trying to mirror the generosity of Jesus. He sees in Nelson a person who is carrying on “a great tradition” at Lehman-Roberts through generosity, and a model leader. “Pat is a good leader, but he’s also a good listener. He has a humble mind, but he’s not afraid to make decisions,” Willson said. “He’s a hard worker, a work horse. He doesn’t ask other people to do what he’s not willing to do himself.”


Learn more about Lehman Roberts at lehmanroberts.com.

Story by Toni Lepeska
Photos by Troy Glasgow


Posted: 5/10/2017 11:32:29 AM | with 0 comments



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The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 (cmeek@memphischamber.com) or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (jfish@memphischamber.com).

 

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