John Edward Breen

May 1, 1932February 14, 2023
Obituary of John Edward Breen
Dr. John E. (“Jack”) Breen (May 1, 1932 – February 14, 2023), 90, Life Partner and Husband to his soulmate of 70 years, Marian, Father of 8 children, Grandfather of 13 children, UT Professor, and mentor and hero to many, many people died peacefully at his home. Ever the hopeless romantic and head over heels in love, Jack just couldn’t spend another Valentine’s Day without the love of his life, Marian. Jack lived a full and complete life and his was truly a life well-lived. Jack was born in 1932 in Buffalo, New York, the oldest child of two boys to Ted and Alice Breen. The son of a hard-working fireman and strong-willed mother, Jack was raised with a lot of love and not much money and he never, ever forgot where he came from and what it took to accomplish everything he did. And his accomplishments were prodigious. Jack went to Canisius High School in Buffalo on scholarship and the education he received there helped mold his incredible character and was the jet fuel that began his incredible trajectory in life. His entire life, Jack recognized the well-rounded education he got there provided the foundation for him to realize his full potential as a unique individual, both inside and outside the classroom, with a focus not only on academic excellence but on his whole person – mind, body, spirit and soul. Jack was so proud when he returned with children and grandchildren in tow to receive induction there into the Distinguished Alumni Hall of Honor. After high school, Jack left home and attended Marquette University on a Naval ROTC Scholarship, graduating with a Civil Engineering Degree in 1953. It was there he met his love and soul mate Marian, a beautiful, smart, amazing nursing student who captured his heart and never gave it back. And we mean never. Jack would be the first to tell you he definitely married way above his pay grade with Marian and the two of them together formed an incredible, world changing partnership that delivered service and love to all corners of the Earth. While Jack finished his senior year at Marquette, Marian worked at St. Joseph Hospital in Milwaukee, and then they married in 1953. They honeymooned by road tripping in a Studebaker Starlight Coupe across the U.S. to Jack’s Navy base in Oxnard California where Marian would work as an R.N. at nearby St. Mary’s Hospital. Jack loved being a construction engineering officer in the U.S. Navy and proudly wore his beloved Navy “SeaBees” hats until the day he died. He adopted their motto of “Can Do” and applied it to every single facet of his multi-talented life – including his marriage and family life. Indeed, it seemed there was nothing that Jack could not do. In marriage and life, Jack and Marian were “can do” equals and stood shoulder to shoulder. Their marriage was a true partnership, with both equally contributing and sharing in the work, responsibility, success, tears and joy of building a wildly beautiful life and family together. After California, Jack and Marian moved to Foley, Alabama in December 1953, where Jack was stationed next. Here, Marian and Jack had the first two of their 8 children, developed lifelong friends and their love for Gulf Shores, a site of many return trips and much happiness with their family for years. In 1956, Marian and Jack moved to Columbia, Missouri where Jack obtained his master’s in civil engineering from The University of Missouri and Marian had children 3 and 4 and expertly ran things at home with little money but a lot of love and survival techniques. Later, Jack would be inducted into the Civil and Environmental Academy of Distinguished Alumni there honoring graduates who are outstanding in their field, leaders in community affairs and worthy of emulation. In 1959, they moved to Austin, Texas, where Jack got his Ph.D. in 1962 under the legendary Dr. Phil Ferguson. Jack taught at UT for generations and was passionate about education, both formal and informal, and he absolutely loved research and teaching. Jack had a prodigious intellect and became a gold-standard in civil engineering. Starting as a first generational college student, Jack worked his way up to become an acclaimed civil engineer and educator who influenced the principal design and construction standards for concrete bridges and buildings nationally and internationally. A member of the National Academy of Engineering, he was the Nasser I. Al-Rashid Chair Emeritus in Civil Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, where he served as a member of the faculty since 1959 and was active in the development of new and innovative reinforced and prestressed concrete bridge and building systems. Jack’s research garnered recognition and awards from organizations such as the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Concrete Institute, the Prestressed Concrete Institute, the American Segmental Bridge Institute, and the International Federation for Prestressed Concrete. He received the 2003 Bridge Engineering Research Award from the Bridge Engineering Association, which cited him for his excellence in structural concrete research, column design, reinforcement development, general structural integrity, segmental bridge design, corrosion protection, and bridge aesthetics. He was a member of a committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers which sets the design loads for buildings, and was also a member and past chair of the American Concrete Institute Building Code Committee for Structural Concrete. This committee develops the design and construction rules for all concrete buildings in the United States and in many foreign countries. He has been elected to both the USA National Academy of Engineering and the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences. He has been widely recognized internationally, receiving the FIP Medal in 1990, the IABSE International Award of Merit in 2000, and the fib Freyssinet Medal in 2002. He was named a Distinguished Engineering Graduate by the UT College of Engineering in 1991. He served on many, many committees at UT, including the Building Committee and the Men’s Athletic Council, the latter providing him cool bowl trips and UT swag that he wore to this day. But of all his awards and accomplishments, the ones Jack cherished the most were the many he was given by his students – teaching and mentoring them were the pulse of his engineering heart and a great sense of joy until the day he died. We thank the many students and colleagues who stayed in touch with Jack, continuing his joy- filled collaboration until literally the last days of his life. While Jack taught at UT, he and Marian had children five, six, seven and eight. Jack loved living in Austin, originally living in small rental homes and then moving in 1963 to their home of 60 years on Azalea Trail, the first home ever built in the Westover Hills subdivision. That home was a very special place to Jack: he raised his family there, he loved there, he laughed there, he entertained there, he celebrated there, he mourned there, he cried there, he was in hospice there and ultimately, just as he wished, he died in peace there. Jack was a person of deep Faith in God and lived his life by the fundamental tenets of education, spirituality and service to others. Jack was Catholic and a longtime member of St. Austin Catholic Church and all the children attended school there. And when it came to his faith, Jack didn’t just talk the talk – he walked the walk. He served others. He included others. He helped others. He carried others. He walked in the shoes of others. He was a deep, critical theological thinker, a voracious reader, and his faith was a fortress. Even when life inflicted upon him the loss of two children and lately the death of his beloved Marian, Jack reminded us that in even the most hopeless of situations, we should not lose our faith in God. Jack loved what he did and who he did it with. He and Marian loved life and loved to see and participate in life, traveling to over 40 countries and literally adventuring in every corner of the world. Jack loved sailing and golf, about the only two things he never quite mastered. Jack loved the outdoors and treasured his many adventure-filled family camping trips, including canoe trips in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota and Canada. And more than anything on this Earth, Jack loved his family, the crown jewel of his accomplishments. And while he demonstrated unconditional, lifelong love, incredible support and a shining example for his children, “Papajack” had an undeniable soft spot for his grandchildren, of whom he was so incredibly proud. Jack actively and lovingly participated in their daily lives: he taught them so much, including the value of a great education. Jack proudly attended and enjoyed every sporting, musical and religious event, he was there at every graduation of every level and challenged them to do and be their best. He showed them how to live life as a loving person to all. Jack loved all his grandchildren tirelessly and deeply, and they knew it, felt it and appreciated it, seeing and feeling him as an incredible, larger than life beacon of love and an example of how to live a great life, the right life and how to live life to the very fullest. For all that, and for everything Jack did and taught to all of us, we are eternally grateful. Jack is survived by his children, Mary, Michael (and wife Anna Lozano), Dennis (and wife Carol), Sheila Peters (and Husband Ed Peters), Sean (and Wife Roslyn) and Kerry (and Partner Mark); grandchildren, Alyssa, Amy, Brett, Collin, Carol, John, Florencia, Connor, Logan, Ryan, Dillon, Finn and Leighton; and his in-laws, Jim, Marge, Ed, Leslye, MaryAnn as well as many beautiful nieces and nephews. Jack was preceded in death by his wife and soulmate Marian, their daughter, Eileen and son, Christopher; his parents, Ted and Alice Breen; and his brother, Don. A Funeral Mass will be held for Jack at St. Austin Catholic Church at 11 A.M. on Saturday, February 18, 2023 and also live streamed. A reception will be held there immediately following Mass. Please park at the Garage at 500 W. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Austin, Texas 78701. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating in Jack’s name to the Christopher Breen Memorial Scholarship at St. Austin’s School, 800 Herndon Ln Austin, TX 78704; or The Christopher D. Breen Memorial Scholarship of the The Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association, Inc.'s Northern Tier Seasonal Staff Scholarship Program;

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Saturday, February 18, 2023

Funeral Service