Jesica Galloway Johnson ’16

By John Eby

As an engineer on a Clemson construction project, Johnson is fulfilling a lifelong dream

“I’m going to go here, and I’m going to build something here.”

That’s what a young Jesica Galloway Johnson ’16 told her father, owner and CEO of David Galloway Builders, when they came to Clemson from nearby Walhalla for football games.

“Papa used to drive us around town when we were little and say, ‘You know, I built this,’” she says. “In Walhalla, or Seneca or Clemson, I can take you to neighborhoods that my family has built, apartments that they’ve built, and I think, ‘There’s a piece of Galloway sitting there.’”

Her decision to pursue construction science and management at Clemson put her on a path that few other women were on, a reality she understood from the beginning.

“Even back in the summers working with my father, I would say, ‘Hey, why do no women do this?’ The answer was, ‘They just don’t,’” she says.

As an undergraduate, Johnson became active in the Clemson University Construction Women group, serving in multiple leadership roles including president. She says she drew inspiration from her mother and from Christine Piper, a former professor in the Nieri Family Department of Construction Science and Management.

“[Piper] portrayed herself and carried herself in a way that I learned from,” Johnson remembers, adding that Piper modeled how to respond to gender-based stereotypes.

After graduation, Johnson worked for Skanska USA Building on major projects in and around Atlanta, such as the Concourse T Expansion at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport and the Mercedes-Benz USA headquarters in Sandy Springs, Georgia.

After three years at Skanska, she took a position with Holder Construction Group, which has managed several Clemson projects, including the new Daniel Hall renovation and expansion. When Johnson was initially tasked with preconstruction purchasing for the project, she saw a chance to return to Clemson. A phone call with Derek Bindewald ’14, also a CSM graduate, opened the door.

“I was slated to come and manage this project, and [as] we were building the team, we were struggling to find an engineer,” Bindewald recounts. “Jesi and I discussed her transitioning to join the on-site team, and within an hour I’m getting calls from our leadership saying, ‘How do you feel about Jesi coming to the project?’”

“I was switched over to operations and was headed to Clemson,” Johnson says.

For both alumni, working at their alma mater is a special experience.

“We can hear the band practicing every afternoon from our trailer,” Bindewald says. “In the afternoons when we’re bogged down with things, we’ll just poke our head out for a little bit, get a breath of fresh air and hear ‘Tiger Rag.’”

For Johnson, this project is a promise kept to her dad.

“When I got the opportunity, it just brought all that back,” she says. “I get kind of emotional talking about it because it’s literally a dream come true.”