A Lasting Legacy
Business leader John Eng left the construction industry—and the Anchorage community—better than he found it
By Jamey Bradbury
C. John Eng at a charity event
C. John Eng at a charity event. A supporter of a number of local causes, Eng regularly attended fundraisers like the Fire and Ice Ball to benefit Covenant House Alaska.
John loved traveling all over the world
John loved traveling all over the world. Here, he and his wife, Lynn, ride an elephant with a guide on a trip in Thailand.

Photos courtesy of Lynn Eng


ast year, for the first time in its fifty-seven-year history, Associated General Contractors of Alaska’s Hard Hat Award was bestowed posthumously. Voted on by past recipients of the award, the Hard Hat is given at the Annual AGC Conference to recognize outstanding contributions to the Alaska construction community. When the conference was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the award ballots that year were sealed.

The ballots were finally opened in September 2021. Voters chose their winner: John Eng, co-founder of Cornerstone Construction and former AGC of Alaska president. But Eng had passed away in June.

“Even though we always had in the bylaws that there’s no posthumous Hard Hat, John was recognized,” says Robby Capps, president of F&W Construction and friend of the Eng family. Capps received the Hard Hat in 2012.

While the Hard Hat Award is a recognition of an individual’s stature in the construction industry, more weight is given to a nominee’s contributions to the Alaska community. And while Eng’s work in the construction industry has produced a legacy that can be seen throughout Anchorage’s landscape, his efforts to better his community may be what he is best remembered for.

“John showed up,” says Capps. “He gave a lot to AGC and to the Rotary. We shared a table with Cornerstone for the Covenant House Fire and Ice Ball. He gave financially to many causes, but he also put in the time. He showed up at events and spent time there.”

The same integrity and character that led Eng to be so deeply involved in his community also made him the kind of businessman customers and other contractors were eager to work with. Through Cornerstone, he completed more than $400 million of work over the course of dozens of jobs without ever having a lawsuit.

“He worked out every issue with every customer,” Capps says. He helped others do the same, adds Capps, who regarded Eng, fifteen years his senior, as a mentor. “I would have an issue with an employee—but if John had a challenge with personnel, he was always thinking about how he could mentor the person and help them become a member of the team. He was generous in that department.”

Lynn Eng holding the Hard Hat given to  her late husband
Lynn Eng holding the Hard Hat given to her late husband.

Photo by Carter Damaska, Alaska Business

His investment in people paid dividends. When he first worked with Doug Cobb, a project manager at Providence Hospital in the late 1990s, Cobb found Eng, “very personable. There were a few times he offered me a job, but the timing wasn’t right.”

But after Eng had been retired a few years, he launched High Point Construction and invited Cobb to come onboard. Today, Cobb is overseeing the completion of High Point’s final projects, initiated by Eng.

Under Eng, Cornerstone was the preferred contractor on projects for Providence Alaska Medical Center. One of Cornerstone’s earliest jobs was building an addition to the US Air Force Headquarters for Elmendorf Air Force Base—which was followed by many additional US Army Corps of Engineers jobs, including a joint venture with Peter Kiewit & Sons to complete a new Veterans Administration clinic at the north entrance of Elmendorf.

Eng also led Cornerstone jobs for the University of Alaska Anchorage, including completing the Alaska Airlines Center there. He also worked with Alaska Regional Hospital, Alaska Pacific University, and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

Eng left his mark throughout the construction community through additional volunteer and service positions, including AGC of Alaska Chapter president, AGC of Alaska Life board member, charter member of the AGC 49ers, as well as participation in more than twenty legislative trips to Juneau to advocate on behalf of the industry. He served as a management trustee of the Alaska Carpenters’ Health & Welfare and Pension Trusts for more than twenty years, with his last five years serving as the chairman of its management group.

In his final letter to the AGC community when his 2013 term as president was ending, Eng wrote, “I think one of the best legacies each of us could leave would be a long list of people saying, ‘I am glad they shared something with me. Life was changed and is much better as a result of their actions.’ If people say such things about you or me, our lives will have been a success.”

By his own standards, then, John Eng’s life was more than a success.

Jamey Bradbury is a freelance writer who lives in Anchorage.