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Engineering Hall of Fame Inductee to Receive Honorary Doctorate

Brian Jaramillo

A decision to apply for an academic scholarship while at Cal Poly Pomona led to a successful 38-year career at Tilden-Coil Constructors for Brian Jaramillo.

Jaramillo (’87, construction engineering technology) was paying his way through college by working a part-time construction job when his faculty advisor nudged him to fill out an application for a scholarship sponsored by Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), a trade organization for the construction industry. These were the days before online applications, so Jaramillo went to the library, filled out the application, and handed it back to the advisor the same day. That led to an interview with an AGC representative from Tilden-Coil for the $1,500 scholarship, which he received, and that interview also led to an internship.

After graduation, Jaramillo worked his way up from a project engineer at Tilden-Coil to president and CEO and now chief operating officer at the Riverside company. He has overseen and guided the company’s operations, including managing hundreds of millions of dollars in construction projects across Southern California.

Embracing every opportunity — like acting on his advisor’s advice to apply for a scholarship — is a philosophy that has worked for him and that he shares with students and employees he mentors.

“Students need to treat every opportunity they get like it’s their only shot,” he said. “Success with your opportunity leads to more opportunities, but failure in that opportunity leads to a slower growth trajectory.”

Jaramillo will be sharing that sage advice and more when he crosses the Commencement stage in May to receive his Honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Creating Opportunities for Tomorrow’s Engineers

It’s an unexpected and humbling honor for Jaramillo, who said he never imagined it was even possible. Jaramillo recalls asking University President Soraya M. Coley why he was selected to receive the honor. Her response: It’s his commitment to giving valuable opportunities to students — his time and donations — as well as the fact that Tilden-Coil puts faith in Cal Poly Pomona graduates by hiring them.

“This is just what I think I should do,” Jaramillo said of his efforts to support the university. “Cal Poly Pomona has given so much to me that it’s just a natural response. I want to invest and see others thrive because somebody invested in me. The scholarship I received was out of the generosity of a benefactor who wanted me to have an opportunity.”

Jaramillo has taken every opportunity to give back to his alma mater. The 2014 Engineering Hall of Fame inductee and former chair of the College of Engineering Dean’s Leadership Board has spearheaded several student success initiatives, including virtual tours to give students a glimpse into the construction industry. He, along with his wife Vesta, provided funds for COVID-19 emergency relief for students, department needs, lab equipment, capital upgrades and vital scholarship and recruiting support.

“Jaramillo’s support and generosity changes lives and helps our students achieve their dreams of success,” said University President Soraya M. Coley. “His unwavering support and commitment to a better future for all exemplifies what it truly means to lead in our world today.”

He has served as a mentor and a coach for students, spoken at engineering club events, organized construction project site tours, sponsored competition teams, and supported the Maximizing Engineering Potential and Women in Science (MEP-WISE) program.

“Giving back or serving is actually the essence of life,” he said. “We’re not here just to satisfy our own appetites. We’re here to make a path and the burden easier for others. A good place to start giving is right here at Cal Poly Pomona.”

Developing Leadership and Lifelong Learning Skills at CPP

From an early age, the Hayward native had a fascination with building things. He loved to play with his Erector sets, Lincoln logs and Tonka trucks. His father, a teacher, had a strong do-it-yourself ethic, and Jaramillo was right beside him during summer breaks building cabinets, repairing the roof and building an addition to the house.

Jaramillo transferred to Cal Poly Pomona after attending a community college in Northern California, and was excited about the university’s polytechnic programs, specifically those in construction. He considered becoming a developer but decided construction was a better fit.

Jaramillo credits Cal Poly Pomona with not only providing the technical skills he needed to be successful in his career, but also helping him develop in the areas of teamwork, communication and leadership. While at CPP, he served as the president of the ski team, a club on campus that raced competitively against other universities and colleges in the region.

“Races required managing finances, arranging transportation and lodging, monitoring gates on the course, and making sure the team members all had their race assignments. There was lots of opportunity for organizing, facilitating and leading,” he said.

The university also taught him the importance of being a life-long learner, he said.

“Learning doesn’t stop when you leave the university. You also learn on the job,” Jaramillo said. “College teaches the fundamentals so that you can thrive in your career. The value of a formal education system is that it also comes with all of these experiences. Cal Poly Pomona gets you involved, whether it’s on campus, out in the field or with internships.”

Visit the commencement website to find the schedule and information for graduates, guests and visitors. Read more stories about the class of 2024.