Building the Dream
Smith MBA Lisa Anders Brings Martin Luther King, Jr.
Memorial to the Mall
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was a very personal project for Lisa
Anders, MBA ’95. Both her parents and her grandmother participated in the 1963
March on Washington, walking from the house Anders now lives in to the Mall,
joining thousands of men and women protesting for equal rights. They heard Dr.
King give his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in person. Anders understood the
emotional impact the proposed monument would have, and she was determined to do
it justice — not just for the sake of her own family, but for all the men and
women deeply affected by the life and influence of Dr. King.
Anders, who is vice president of business development for McKissack and
McKissack, a woman/minority-owned organization specializing in architecture and
construction management, was senior project manager on the Memorial project.
Bringing the dream of the Memorial to life took a combination of technical
skill, political finesse, people-wrangling expertise and good old-fashioned
The four-acre site on the National Mall presented some interesting technical
challenges for the design-build team. The water table is high, the bedrock is 60
feet down, and the Memorial contains contains an enormous amount of stone and
concrete. To take the weight, the team had to build 363 concrete and steel
columns that plunge through soft dirt to the bedrock beneath, each one sited to
avoid a complex network of underground utilities.
There were also personnel challenges to overcome. Anders’ build team
consisted of four companies and a host of subcontractors. That put the
organizational management skills she learned in her MBA courses to the test. But
she also had to manage the competing needs and agendas of the project’s
influential and high-powered stakeholders. This included the Commission on Fine
Arts the National Capital Planning Commission, the National Park Service, and of
course the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation, which began to work on plans
for the Memorial almost 20 years ago.
Anders is justifiably proud of the end result, a labor of love for everyone
who worked on it. “Every stone in the Memorial was laid by human hands,” says
Anders. Those human hands belonged to professionals, craftsmen and laborers who
came overwhelmingly from minority groups. Some, including company owner Deryl
McKissack, were the descendants of slaves.
Inspired by Dr. King’s example, the builders also wanted to give back to the
community. All of the joint venture team members, along with their
subcontractors, contributed money toward scholarships for local high school
students interested in majoring in engineering, architecture, or construction
management, or going to trade school. “This was an amazing project for our team
and the students,” says Anders. “We awarded $5,000 scholarships and MacBooks to
10 high school seniors. One of the scholarship receipts, Janna Madyun, is now a
freshman at the University of Maryland.”
With the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial finished, Anders is embarking on
her next big project — serving as the senior program director for the
construction of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American Culture.