During the presentation, Wrighton explained that such awards may be made on rare occasions where an individual's personal achievements and public contributions exemplify the university's highest ideals and mission. Wrighton added: "Irvin Garms is truly a remarkable individual, and it has been my pleasure to become acquainted with him. Over the course of his accomplished career in construction and international finance, he has had a major impact on global economics and commerce. While he did not attend Washington University, Mr. Garms possesses the qualities of intelligence, determination and drive shared by so many of our successful graduates."
Garms' inspiring career began as a water boy working with mules on his first construction job in the midst of the Great Depression. Later, he joined a budding contractor from Cape Girardeau whose company consisted then of two gas-powered tractors. Garms rose to become a renowned, multi-company executive directing many of the most difficult and important highway, marine, pipeline, and dam construction projects of the 20th century. Until age 85, Garms continued to study and work on seaport and shipping ventures in the Middle and Far East as well as major U.S. harbors. He continues to field requests to participate in joint ventures or consult on demanding highway, railway, and inland waterway projects.
Garms has been a board director of more than a dozen domestic and multi-national companies. His first involvement with The World Bank was in 1958. Elected by his peers to leadership positions in construction trade organizations, both in the U.S. and Europe, he earned many of the highest honors in the industry, including being an initial inductee to a Hall of Fame for contractors. Garms was the first President of the Cape Girardeau County Industrial Development Authority and is now serving his 28th year. Under his 7th appointment by the Cape Girardeau County Court, Garms serves as a Commissioner of the Southeast Missouri Port Authority. For 17 years, he has been Chairman of the Port's Construction Committee.
Garms is Chairman of his family's parent company, I. H. Garms & Sons Company. His younger son, Ronald, who resides primarily in St. Louis, is now its President. His older son, Michael, was previously active in the company but is deceased, survived by his wife Kathie Garms and daughter Kim (Andy) Chronister.
Of the more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, U.S. News & World Report for 2009 ranks Washington University's undergraduate program 12th in the nation, and 20 of its graduate and professional programs are in the top-10. This year's entering class of 1,500 freshmen was selected from more than 23,000 of the world's top students who applied.
Washington University School of Medicine is ranked 3rd in the United States. It receives private and public research grants of more than $500 million annually. Its faculty of more than 1,000 of the most highly-credentialed and experienced physicians staff Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Children's Hospital, Central Institute for the Deaf, and more than 35 clinics throughout the St. Louis area.
Also, more than 350 of Washington University's top researchers and physicians comprise the exclusive treating staff for the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis, the only cancer treatment center in Missouri to hold the Comprehensive Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute, caring for nearly 8,000 new cancer patients each year. When construction of the only single-vault proton therapy center in the United States is completed next month at the Siteman Center, it too will be staffed by Washington University physicians.