Marie Hooper Jenkins 22 April, 1929- 2 Sept. 2013
Marie Hooper Jenkins died in her sleep on 2nd September. She died as she had approached almost everything in her widely varied life: on her own terms. Professionally, Jenkins was something of a pioneer, an engineer and entrepreneur in fields that then included few women. In the 1950's, she worked as a civilian employee on the development of the Navy's Sidewinder missile, which is still in use today. In 1963, she became the first woman to chair a local chapter of The American Institute of Chemical Engineers. From 1977 to 1989, Jenkins served as President of NAPP, Inc., a manufacturer of air pollution testing equipment, traveling the world to work with clients in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Africa. She was born on 22nd April, 1929 in the Philadelphia Community near Libuse, Louisiana. She attended Rosenthal Elementary School in Alexandria, Louisiana, where she was crowned "Queen of the May," and went on to attend Bolton High School, where her interest in science was piqued. Jenkins matriculated at Louisiana Polytechnical Institute in Ruston, majoring in Chemical Engineering. At college, she met and later married Charles E. Jenkins. His studies took them to Austin -- she worked while he finished his degree from the University of Texas
. The couple then moved to Seattle, and she completed her Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering at the University of Washington
in 1956. A woman in engineering
After graduating, Jenkins went to work for Boeing Aircraft, where, despite some good-natured hazing in her all-male department, she demonstrated that there were advantages to being a female in a "man's profession." She firmly believed that being a woman gave her a different perspective in problem solving -- one that could be applied to develop novel approaches for tackling technical challenges. That perspective served her well in her subsequent career, enabling her to win over skeptics in fields ranging from explosives to air pollution control. Following her time at Boeing, Jenkins was a civilian employee with the Naval Ordinance Test Station in China Lake, CA, working on solid propellants and explosives. It was in this capacity that she worked with William B. McLean and his team on the Sidewinder and other missile propellants, firing test runs down a mile-long track in the desert. During that period, she also earned her pilot's license, flying the "Sierra wave" above the desert. The family eventually settled in Austin, which was to be Marie's home for over 45 years. After taking time off to raise her two children, Marie studied computer programming at the University of Texas, and did consulting work for the Astronomy Department there. In 1977, she purchased NAPP Inc. and entered the business of air pollution testing and compliance. Her husband soon joined her, and they grew the company together for over a decade. After the couple divorced in the late eighties, Marie continued to run NAPP until 1996, when she sold its assets and retired. "Paying it forward"
Throughout her business career, Jenkins was the beneficiary of guidance and support from many advisors, particularly Ronya and Dr. George and Kozmetsky, whom she considered to be among her most important mentors and friends. She also was a graduate of both Leadership Texas and the inaugural class of the Leadership America women's development programs. The encouragement and support she received from generous mentors all her life was something she tried to pass along to others. Even when, stricken by Parkinson's Disease in her seventies, she was dependent on caregivers, she would find out what their aspirations were, give them advice, offer to connect them with someone who could help, and urge them to follow their dreams. Jenkins could be forward about sharing her opinions. After watching then-Texas Treasurer Ann Richards and others smoke through a Leadership Texas discussion on air pollution, Jenkins challenged them to quit. When Richards and two other women later attended a smoking cessation camp, they joked that Jenkins' name was "taken in vain" more than once during the week, and promised her copies of their graduation certificates. Backpacking, choir, and ghee
She loved to travel and experience new cultures, to sing and listen to music, to make art and pottery, and to prepare and eat good food. She sang in the choir of Good Shepherd Church and in the Austin Choral Symposia, and attended concerts and operas regularly. She was passionate about the value of good education, volunteering for literacy programs and staying closely involved in her own children's studies. Jenkins was a devotee of Julia Child and the cuisine of France, but also explored new tastes, cooking with a "foods of the world" group in the 1970's, when finding then-exotic ingredients in Austin was challenging. Easter would be celebrated one year with Russian dishes and customs, or there would be homemade ghee and cheese for Indian food, or a custom-designed gingerbread house at Christmas. She also enjoyed outdoor activities, including skiing, camping, and hiking. In the 1950's, she and her husband bought two of the first Kelty backpacks ever made out of the trunk of the founder's car. Much later, when she was in her early sixties, Jenkins took up sculling, and would row on Town Lake in the mornings before heading into the office. For several years, she served on the Board of the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve in Austin. Paris premieres, Rome by moonlight
In the early 1960's, through a submarine project Charles was working on at Westinghouse, the couple met Jacques and Simone Cousteau. This led to a trip for the Paris premiere of Cousteau's movie, World Without Sun, and scuba diving with the crew of the Calypso in the south of France. (On one flight to France, Marie so charmed her seatmate, the celebrity hairdresser Alexandre de Paris, that he dashed off two sketches of hairstyles for her on the plane.) Jenkins made her final trip abroad when she was in her late seventies, after she had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease and walking was already difficult. The first day, she could barely get to the end of a block. By the end of the week, she could walk from bridge to bridge across the Arno, browsing in silver workshops and print-making studios along the way. When the return flight from the Florence airport was fogged in and passengers were bused to Rome, she rode the subway into the city to see the Coliseum and St. Peter's by moonlight. Family and community
Jenkins placed very strong value on family ties: she was never too busy in the office to take a phone call from her children, and enjoyed attending family events with her sisters and their 50 first cousins. She is survived by her daughter, Nancy M. von Minden, and son-in-law, Trip; son, Charles E. Jenkins Jr., and son-in-law, James Dixon; granddaughters, Annalise Marie von Minden, Marie Caveness Dixon-Jenkins, and Katherine Burnaman Dixon-Jenkins; and sisters, Doris Pegues and Ruby Paul. Memberships and activities included: the Austin Woman's Club, the Austin Club, the UT Ladies Club, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the National Society of Professional Engineers, and the Air Pollution Control Association. Jenkins was a registered professional engineer in Texas and California and a licensed pilot. Services celebrating her life were held on Saturday, 7 September in Pineville, Louisiana, with Father Fred Tinsley of St. James Episcopal Church officiating. She was buried with family in the Richey Cemetery in Deville, Louisiana. Donations may be made to the Marie H. Jenkins Memorial Liturgical Music restricted account at Good Shepherd Church, 3201 Windsor Road, Austin, TX 78703.