“(Al) Phillips believed with an almost missionary zeal that the playing field in the construction industry needed to be leveled. I knew he was right and that there was a tremendous need in the industry for an organization that reflected the Owner’s voice.”

Norm Neiterman, Harvard Medical School (Ret.) 
Founding Director and First President of COAA

COAA’s Founder, Albert E. Phillips, was a visionary and was convinced that there was a tremendous need in the construction industry for a non-profit organization reflecting the voice of the Owner in the construction process. At the time, Phillips was a partner with Phillips and Reid in Atlanta. He had produced a suite of Owner contract documents and often spoke about them at various construction industry events.

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In 1994, Phillips prepared a mailing to an Owners’ list he had compiled to determine interest in establishing a non-profit organization that would represent the Owner’s voice. After compiling the responses, Phillips selected a core group of Owners to serve as the Founding Directors and they met in Atlanta shortly thereafter to begin the work. No one really knew whether the Construction Owners Association of America (COAA) would succeed, but everyone was convinced that there was a need for such an organization.

“Al did all the heavy lifting and provided the funding to get COAA off the ground. He also provided office space and administrative support for many years.”

Miles Albertson, University of Florida (Ret.)
COAA President (2002 – 2003)

Each director was charged with bringing in 10 new members. And, by the time the very first conference was held at the Nashville Stouffer Hotel in Tennessee, COAA’s charter membership had grown to 156 members and 15 associates.

In 1996, Norm Neiterman, Harvard Medical Center (Ret.), was unanimously elected Chairman of the Board. He ultimately became the first President of the Association and has been followed by an esteemed list of Owners:

1997 – 1998 Norm Neiterman, Harvard Medical School Chairman of the Board
1999 Norm Neiterman, Harvard Medical School President
2000 – 2001 Linda Glaza Herrington, Meijer President
2002 – 2003 Miles Albertson, University of Florida President
2004 – 2005 Bob Dillman, University of Virginia, College of William and Mary President
2006 – 2007 Jack Mumma, Michigan State University President
2008 – 2009 Terry Cook, University of Maryland, Baltimore County President
2010 – 2011 Boyd Black, University of Chicago President
2012 – 2013 Ted Argyle, Ada County, Idaho President
2014 - 2015 Kevin Lewis, Loudoun County Public Schools (VA) President
2016 - 2017 Dean McCormick, Iowa State University President
2017 - 2018 Joe Sprys, National Heritage Academies President
2018 - 2019 Gwen Glattes, Penn Medicine President
2019 - 2022 Allison B. Muth, Texas Children's Hospital


2023 - present John V. Zahor, University of Maryland, Baltimore County


The first strategic plan was developed in 1997 and was based on a two-part vision:

  1. to give members greater control over their work environment/business destiny, and
  2. improve the construction industry.

COAA’s mission was to bring balance to the construction process and its purpose was to provide Owners with an independent focal point for leadership in construction.

  • 1997 – Strategic Plan developed
  • 1999 – Hired administrative support
  • 1999 – First Chapter Started (Virginia)
  • 2001 – First Project Leadership Award was given (Gwinnett County Public Schools)
  • 2003 – Hired a professional management company
  • 2003 – First OTI course was held (Scottsdale)
  • 2004 – COAA operations automated
  • 2006 – Website Redesign #1
  • 2007 – First Albert E. Phillips Scholarship awarded
  • 2007 – Joined ConsensusDocs Coalition
  • 2010 – COAA added webinars to its offerings
  • 2012 – Website Redesign #2
  • 2012 – OTI course development initiative began
  • 2016 – Hired first Executive Director
  • 2017 – Transitioned to a standalone organization
  • 2018 – Hired a former Owner to serve as Executive Director
  • 2018 – Introduction of The COAA Way®
  • 2019 – 25th Anniversary 
  • 2020 – The world changed ... but COAA adapted and grew
  • 2021 – Wisconsin Chapter formed 
  • 2024 - The COAA Way Podcast launched

COAA was founded to establish the Owner’s voice in the construction process. Over the last 30 years, COAA has evolved to Owners not just having a voice, but also working more collaboratively with their design and construction partners. 

COAA’s current mission supports project owners’ success in the design and construction of buildings and facilities through education, information, and developing relationships in the industry.