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Cleve Whitener, CEO and Lauren Engineers & Constructors. Since 1984, Lauren Engineers & Constructors has been designing and constructing highly specialized facilities in the chemicals and polymers, power, oil and gas, and refining industries. Cleve has over 44 years of experience in ownership and management of engineering, procurement and construction companies. He took his B.A. at Southern Methodist in Mechanical Engineering and did graduate coursework in business administration at University of Texas at Arlington as well as Dallas Theological Seminary. In our conversation today we discuss building power plants, hunting dogs, and the problems with 5 year plans. We hope you enjoy the conversation. | Transcription | Interviewer: So how long have you been in Abilene? Cleve: Let's see, 24 years. Interviewer: And you grew up in Dallas, is that correct? Cleve: Yes. Interviewer: Tell us a little bit about your family like, what did your father do? Cleve: Well, my dad was an attorney and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. We grew up in the '50s and '60s so that was a different time. We, you know, moved to Lake Collins when I was eight years old. We'd lived down the coast for a little while and then we lived another close by Lake Collins, but Lake Collins was a new school. It was part of Richardson Schools, and we moved out there, we all moved there in the third grade, or before the third grade. So my mom still is lives in the same house that was, you know, 60 years ago. And dad lived there until he passed away three years ago. Interviewer: So, that's kind of like typical post-war boom area, right? New developments, new schools, expanding neighborhoods eras, is that right then? Cleve: Yeah. Very much middle class, you know, neighborhood. Difficult house was, you know, three-bedroom, 2,000 square foot, two bath-house I think, probably every house in the street was… while, they were individually built and custom homes, I think they were all just about the same. In our house, I have four brothers or, you know, four brothers and sisters. Two brothers, two sisters and for a long time my grandad, because my grandma died when we were… I guess was about 12, and my grandad came to live with us. So, in one room, I had two brothers and grandad that shared a fairly small bedroom. Interviewer: All right. Cleve: That was a different time in the US. You know, certainly we always have fine memories of childhood but I actually think that was the best time for America. Interviewer: Do you remember learning anything from having your grandad live with you? Cleve: Well, all of us learned patience. I mean, grandads, you know, especially then they were, you know, you had to be patient with him, all three of us. Interviewer: There was something about intergenerational living that I find fascinating, that, it seems as though, our culture has gotten a little bit away from these days. And sometimes I mourn that we don't do that that often. Cleve: Yeah. Well, you know, my grandparents were… my grandad was a farmer. And so, he lived on the farm, and me and my dad grew up on a farm which is pretty typical especially in Texas. You know, back in the '30s that's what people did was they farm, and so my brothers and I we spent every summer on the farm until grandad moved in with us. Interviewer: And where was the farm? Cleve: It was near Waco, Texas, you know, small farm but we didn't recognize that as kids. We had a great time. Yeah, we worked and, of course, played, and we were already used to my grandad and that we spent the summers with him and, of course, my grandma until she passed. Interviewer: Yeah. So then, did your dad farm as well or what did he do for a living? Cleve: No, he was an attorney. He went to Baylor and got his law degree and that's where I was born while he was still in law school. I don't remember that part, of course, because I was just small. I started to remember the farm well, there was a lot of fine memories of, you know, doing stuff with granddad and working. And they had a garden that was just really for their use, but it was large enough where they had a lot of extra produce. And so, we'd take it to town nearby, which is this town called Mart. We'd sell it, you know, behind the pickup, just drive around the streets selling it, and we got to keep some of the money and go get an ice cream or something, so. Interviewer: Do you think spending time on the farm as a child gave you kind of a primer for wanting to understand how things work, and like the mechanical nature of things? Cleve: Well, certainly it helped, you know, because the farm, you have to do everything. Interviewer: Right. Cleve: So, if the tractor needed fixing, you didn't call mechanic, you'd fixed it. You know, if a fence was broken you fix it, and certainly. So it was a… it's very much manual labor so you learned a lot about manual labor. So, yeah, I'd say that it certainly was a good experience from that standpoint. Interviewer: And you got to keep a little bit of the money of the produce that you sold, so you learned how to enjoy the spoils of your labor. Cleve: Yep, yeah. It wasn't much, but, yeah, you know. Interviewer: What do you think your… what was your favorite job on the farm when you were a kid? Cleve: Driving the tractor. I'd tell you the worst, a lot of times you remember the worst job. The worst job was picking cotton. You had a lot of… you gain a lot of respect for the man and woman who came to pick cotton because that was a terrible job. You know, you got your hands bloody, and we weren't very good at it compared to them. Of course, they got paid by the tow sack full of what they picked. And so, they were, you know, much better at it, but, yeah. The best job was driving the tractor either plowing or bailing hay. As a kid, you know, that was a pretty nice job. Interviewer: You ended up going onto be an athlete. So, my guess is you were built strong and able to handle the manual labors, is that right? Cleve: Yes. Interviewer: About how tall and what was your weight when you were at your peak playing days? Cleve: Well, I'm 5'11 and I weighed about 210. So, I was small for a linebacker, large for a free safety, so I played both positions. And about the same weight. I didn't put on a lot of weight when moved to linebacker. Interviewer: Were you fast? Cleve: Well, for that day in time, you know. It's a whole different game now than it was in the '60s and '70s, but... Interviewer: How did you get started in football? Do you remember your very first time playing? Cleve: Oh, sure, you know, I love athletics from the time I can remember. I had a football when I was probably four or five years old, and carried it around, and started playing organized football at about seven. You know, I played baseball too and basketball. So, you know, I mean, athletics was a big part of our growing up, there's no doubt about that. Interviewer: And did your dad encourage that? Did your dad play with you? Cleve: Oh, yeah, he was our little league coach, and then, of course, he played, you know, catch with us and he was a good athlete himself. He had gone to a school on a football scholarship at Howard Payne but the work came along and so that cuts short, because he was only there a year and then when off to Europe, got wounded and came back, and went to school and got a law degree. Interviewer: Do you have kids? And did they play any sports? Cleve: Well, I have a daughter. When she was in high school she ran track and played basketball, but she was also a cheer leader. Her talent and passion is more on the art side. She sang jazz for a good while because she was really quite good at it, but we just have one child. Interviewer: Do you have like an incredibly memorably game from high school football where you were the star or something big happened? Cleve: Yeah, we…you know, unfortunately it didn't work out well for us, but the game I remember most, we had a good team, I was a quarter back, I was the free safety. We actually went undefeated, but we didn't get out of our district because our big rivalry was McKinney High School. And we tied them six to six, we played in this terrible weather, it was muddy, kind of snow storm so neither one of us really had much offense, but we tied six to six, and, you know, there was some kind of rules back then where, you know, the winner of the district went out. And they eventually got beaten by the State champion late in a playoff. So, that game was probably the most memorable just because it was my senior year. Also played basketball, and we did win the State basketball that year so that was a pretty big deal, and along went baseball too. So, you know, Lake Collins was kind of a new school and lot of kids moved in, and so we had good athletic teams. Interviewer: One of those power house up and coming schools at the time. And then a really good history and tradition since then, right? I mean, I looked at the notable alumni, and it seems there a handful of very successful football players that had been out of there. Cleve: Yeah, no question. I think, they still do well, not quite as well as they did. Even after I left they actually did even better, won several State championships and all...

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