Richard Louis Jennings

July 28, 1933July 10, 2019

Richard Louis Jennings, Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering at the University of Virginia, age 85, died in Raleigh, North Carolina on July 10, 2019, where he had lived for 7 years.

Dick was born in Newark, New Jersey on July 28, 1933. He was the older son of the late Louis Alpheus Jennings and Florence Eva Warnecke Jennings. He was raised in Elizabeth, Roselle Park, Westfield and Mountainside, New Jersey. He attended Marietta College in Ohio (where he was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega men’s social fraternity); Ohio University (Athens, Ohio) (where he earned BS in Mathematics and BS in Civil Engineering degrees); and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana (where he earned MS and Ph.D. degrees in Civil Engineering). While a student at Ohio University, Dick met Jan Hayden Bush, at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. They were married on September 2, 1956 at All Saints Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, Ohio. Dick and Jan moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois and began raising their two children (Sherry and Greg) while Dick attended graduate school in Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois. In 1963 the family moved to Charlottesville where Dick joined the University of Virginia Civil Engineering faculty.

Before joining UVa, Dick was employed by AT&T as a construction superintendent. Later, while a University of Virginia professor, Dick was a consultant to numerous organizations including the United States Marine Corps, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (he was a NASA/ASEE Post-doctoral fellow at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and for 6 years, he directed the NASA BioSpace Technology Training Program at Wallops Island, Virginia) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia (where he was a consultant on the structural analysis and design of large-diameter fully-steerable radio telescope antennas).

Dick was a gifted and compassionate professor, teacher, student advisor and mentor. He was an advocate for students who benefited from his strong encouragement. He worked to recruit women and African Americans to the program, and worked with many international students. He enjoyed being a mentor and helping aspiring engineers master the fundamentals of civil engineering. He helped his students see how structures could be planned—how to bring a vision into reality, how to start with nothing and bring a project to completion. He focused on teaching the process of developing a structure by stages—the sequencing of various parts. He especially enjoyed teaching graduate courses to practicing professional engineers via the University of Virginia televised graduate extension program in engineering.

Dick devoted many hours to working as a volunteer for educational and civic groups in Charlottesville. These included: Governor’s Conference on Education, the Charlottesville PTA Council and a successful campaign for a bond issue for a new city high school. He served on the Charlottesville City School Board for nine years, including 5-1/2 years as Chairman. He also chaired the boards of the Family Service Agency, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center, the Pantops Community Advisory Council and the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail Authority. He served on the boards of the Piedmont Virginia Community College, Public Television Station WVPT and the Virginia Congress of Parents & Teachers and the Virginia High School League.

In Champaign, Dick’s family attended Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church (where Dick served for two terms on the Vestry). He belonged to St. Paul’s Memorial Episcopal in Charlottesville (where he served one term on the vestry) and then Peace in the Valley Church in Nellysford, VA. He was very active in Christian prison ministry in Virginia, and served for many years as a volunteer and leader in the Kairos Christian ministry program for men at the Buckingham Correctional Center in Dilwyn, Virginia. He also conducted a Bible-Study program for women in the maximum security section of the Women’s Correctional Facility in Goochland, Virginia and participated in a weekly Sunday worship service to the women there.

Dick was preceded in death by Jan Hayden Bush Jennings, his wife of 44 years. He is survived by his daughter Sheryll Jennings Frost (Sherry) and her husband Jack Meyer Frost and their children: Jack Jennings Frost (Ellen) of Raleigh, and Richard Meyer Frost of Newark, NJ; his son Gregory Louis Jennings (Greg) and his children: David Aaron Frank and his daughter Erin; Angie Frank Sweet (Philip) and their daughter Annah; Lauren Jennings Phifer, (Chase) and their daughters Livy and Logan; Sarah Hayden Jennings; all of Riverside-Pell City/Birmingham, Alabama. He is also survived by his only brother Joel Charles Jennings and his wife Mary Lee Russell Jennings and their family of the Minneapolis area, Minnesota: Wendi (Bill), Tracey (Eric) (of Kenya), Todd (Lorri) and Jodi and their children; his nephews Matt Bennett of Asheville, NC; Jeff Jennings (Wynn) and niece Claire Jennings Comer (Tim) of Luray, VA; and cousins The Rev. Fred Warnecke, Jr., Charis Warnecke Hughes, and Judy Hapgood Simpson, as well as relatives William C. Trenary III and Pattie Trenary Irvin.

A family graveside burial service will be held at a future date in Luray, Virginia.

Because of Dick’s professional and volunteer life in education, the family suggests that donations to your local library, or literacy organization, in celebration of Dick’s life, would carry on his desire to help children & students learn.


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Richard Louis Jennings

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