Joe Mohamed '55 (Business Administration)

A Hornet classic

Distinguished. Noble. The words evoke Joe Mohamed’s favorite architectural feature: the column. But they also could describe Mohamed himself—successful Sacramento-area developer, 32-year Army veteran and one of Sac State’s original graduates.

Mohamed says he is partial to columns because they remind him of classic architecture found in his family’s homeland in the Middle East. He’s included the design feature in many of the projects he’s built, including his own home.

In fact, he is so fond of columns that Mohamed fought to keep them as part of the design of the Alumni Center.

“Columns give buildings a distinguished look. When you build something, you always want to build it so it makes people want to be there and makes them want to come back.”

Mohamed was a member of the Alumni Center’s Foundation Committee, which helped raise funds to build the Center. He says the original plans called for columns and verandas, but fundraising challenges almost caused them to be deleted from the design.

“I pushed pretty hard to get them retained,” Mohamed says. “I got a friend who was in the business of making these concrete columns to help out.”

Mohamed grew up working on his father’s farm outside of Lodi. His father, who was born and raised in Jerusalem, eventually settled in San Joaquin County and established the first Arab-owned farm in the region. “I started driving farm trucks with produce into the canneries when I was 13 years old and never had an accident or anything,” he says.

During World War II, Mohamed joined the Army as a private and eventually became a drill sergeant. He received a commission after an officer essentially ordered him to apply for Officer Candidate School.  “He said, ‘Your IQ is the highest I’ve seen around here and I want you to apply.’ I did but thought, ‘I’ll never make this,’” Mohammed says.

After the war, he transferred to the Army Reserves and served in Korea and Vietnam. “I spent most of my time as an aviator, flying fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.” He eventually retired as a colonel in 1978 after 32 years of service.

Mohamed used his GI Bill benefits to attend Sacramento State, becoming one of its earliest students. He attended classes in the evenings and during the day, worked in landscape construction to pay for school and support his wife and son. “By the time I graduated, I had about 20 guys working for me.”

His company—Joe Mohamed Enterprises—has continued to expand, developing numerous subdivisions, shopping centers and houses throughout the Sacramento region.

He also keeps ties to the University, including attending the annual Golden Grads reunion in the Alumni Center he championed. Mohamed says they put so much effort into making the Center a reality because they felt it was a “vital” part the University experience. “An alumni center is the heartbeat that keeps graduates associated with the University.”

This article was originally published in the Spring 2012 edition of Sac State Magazine.

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