2012 Arkansas Construction Hall of Fame: Kenneth Allen Pettit, PE

Kenneth Allen Pettit was born in Little Rock, on Oct. 31, 1925, to the late Ernest N. and Rosalee B. Pettit.

Pettit was educated in the Little Rock public school system and graduated from Wichita Falls, Texas, High School. He received a BSME degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1949.

After graduation, Kent (as he preferred to be known) returned to Little Rock and with his father opened their mechanical and electrical consulting engineering office in what was then the Wallace Building in downtown Little Rock.

Father and son worked side by side until Ernest Pettit died in 1968, at which time Kent continued as the firm’s sole owner until the early 1970s when he was joined by Kenneth R. Baldridge (now deceased) and Samuel D. Cummings, Jr. (currently president of the firm) as partners.

Pettit and his firm were instrumental in designing mechanical and electrical systems on buildings for various architectural firms and their direct owners. Two of those architects are fellow AGC Construction Hall of Fame honorees – Jack See and Joe Stanley.

Pettit & Pettit are the design engineers for buildings throughout the state, including health care facilities and higher educational campuses as well as the following projects:

• Blue Cross / Blue Shield corporate office building in Little Rock

• National Old Line Insurance building (currently occupied by Arkansas Building Authority) in Little Rock

• Various Buildings at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville

• Various Buildings at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia

• Various Buildings at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville

• Additions/Renovations at St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock

• Additions/Renovations at St. Joseph Mercy Medical Center in Hot Springs

• Various buildings on the campus of John Brown University in Siloam Springs

• Riceland Foods corporate headquarters in Stuttgart

Not only did Pettit leave his mark on the firm, but he was an educator and role model to a number of mechanical and electrical design engineers who have been successful in their own right, partially because of his mentorship.

Pettit was a member of several engineering societies and boards.

He was elected a charter member of the Arkansas Academy of Mechanical Engineers at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and was the first non-graduate to receive this honor.

He was honored by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers, Inc. as a fellow in the society in 1976. It was the highest grade of membership offered by the organization and Pettit was the first Arkansan to be honored.

He held several positions in ASHRAE over the years, including president of the local chapter, and he was a director at large and a director of the national organization.

In 1971, the board of the local ASHRAE presented Pettit with the Ernest N. Pettit Memorial Award for Kent’s dedicated service to the society at the local, regional and national levels, as he held all chapter offices over a 20-year period.

Pettit was also an active member in the Illuminating Engineering Society, the Institute of Electrical Engineers and Examiners, the National Society of Professional Engineers, the Arkansas Society of Professional Engineers and the American Society of Plumbing Engineers.

He served four consecutive, three-year terms as a member of the Arkansas State Board of Registration of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors.

Among his other memberships, Pettit was named a Paul Harris fellow in Rotary Club 99-Little Rock by the Foundation of Rotary International in 1982. He was a long-time member of Christ Episcopal Church in Little Rock where he served proudly on its vestry and was a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University of Texas.

Because of poor health, Pettit retired in the mid-1990s after approximately 45 years in the consulting/design business. He died in September, 2000, one month before turning 75.

Survivors were his wife of forty-three years Joan Carroll Marshall, sons Allen Marshall and Andrew Scott (who died in 2011), daughter-in-law Holly and grandchildren Brianne, Marshall and Natalie.

Pettit would be proud and humbled by the honor which the AGC has posthumously bestowed upon him. He loved his profession and strived to meet at all times the criteria required to become outstanding in his field.

He certainly achieved that in his lifetime.