Richard E. Wainerdi, P.E., Ph.D.
Richard E. Wainerdi peacefully passed away on March 17, 2021 at his home. In a professional career that spanned six decades, serving in academia, the energy industry, and not-for-profit, as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Texas Medical Center, from 1984 through 2012, he retired with the title, President Emeritus.
Richard Elliott "Dick" Wainerdi was born in New York City on November 27, 1931, the only child of Harold and Margaret Wainerdi. He attended public schools in New York City and graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1949. He accepted a scholarship to attend the University of Oklahoma, graduating with a degree in Petroleum Engineering.
Richard joined the United States Air Force and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant following training in the Officer Basic Military Course at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. During his time in the Air Force, he became interested in peacetime applications in atomic energy. Following his military service, he entered the graduate engineering program at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), completing his master's degree as well as his doctorate.
Richard read an article in the newspaper about a young woman in Buffalo, New York, and after initiating correspondence, the two met and fell in love. After a brief courtship, Richard Wainerdi and Angela Lampone married on June 2, 1956, a romance that continued to flourish for the next fifty-six years, until Angela's passing in 2012.
He accepted a position at Dresser Industries as the coordinator of nuclear activities, where he met and developed a lifelong friendship with George H. W. Bush, and the Bush family.
Following his time at Dresser Industries, he responded to a phone call from his former professor, John Calhoun, that drew him to Texas A&M University. He accepted a joint appointment as Associate Professor of Petroleum Engineering and Associate Professor of Nuclear Engineering. This move launched his twenty-year career at Texas A&M, where he became Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. He established the Nuclear Science Center and conducted pioneering research in Activation Analysis, established the German Synfuels Technology Retrieval Program, the Center for Energy and Mineral Resources and played a key role in starting both the Cyclotron Institute and the College of Medicine. Dr. Wainerdi's role during his years at Texas A&M University contributed to the school's rising prominence in research and nuclear science.
After leaving Texas A&M in 1977, he spent the next five years as Senior Vice President, Special Projects Division at 3D/International, where he gained experience in basic architecture and international business. In 1982, he moved into corporate executive management as President of Gulf Research & Development Company, Gulf Oil Corporation.
In the summer of 1984, he received a call from Richard J. V. Johnson, Chairman of the Board, Texas Medical Center and publisher of the Houston Chronicle. After several meetings with Johnson, he agreed to serve as president of Texas Medical Center "for a couple of years." It did not take long before he, "fell in love with the place" and devoted the next twenty-eight years of his life.
His career in academia, scientific research, and the oil and gas industry provided him with a fresh perspective to create new ideas for growth and recognition for the Texas Medical Center. He had a vision of collaboration and cooperation among the institutions yet maintaining independent leadership and autonomy. He developed a not-for-profit administrative model that focused on building consensus, providing vital support services, and connecting member institutions with resources that enabled them to heighten their unique areas of expertise. Institutions found that it was possible to work together, as well as compete in the healthcare industry. Houston went from being known as the "energy capital of the world" to the home of the world's largest medical complex. He initiated a dialogue with the member institutions and in time created a change of culture that led to improved relations, greater cooperation, and a period of spectacular growth by the time of his retirement in 2012.
He continued to be an enthusiastic promoter of the Texas Medical Center, both the larger entity and on behalf of the individual member organizations. He was dedicated to advancing the noble cause for which the original founders created the Texas Medical Center. His respect for that mission was immense and boundless, and his defense of the integrity of this purpose, as outlined in the Texas Medical Center's Covenants, was fierce and always uncompromising.
His life was characterized by his perseverance, dedication, integrity, love for family, and his compassion for others. He often worked quietly, behind the scenes, for charitable foundations and organizations. Two such organizations especially close to his heart were Fisher House Foundation, which builds homes where military and veterans families can stay free of charge while a loved one is in the hospital or receiving treatment, and The Rise School, dedicated to helping children with developmental disabilities to get the start they need to build successful independent lives.
During his lifetime he authored and co-authored almost 200 technical articles in professional journals and textbooks; held academic appointments at Texas A&M University; Wiess School of Natural Sciences, George R. Brown School of Engineering, at Rice University; Baylor College of Medicine; and The University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston.
Richard E. Wainerdi learned at a young age that life was not easy, but that with hard work and a willingness to learn and follow the rules, it could be good. Although he never sought the limelight, many have recognized his numerous achievements.
Dr. Wainerdi is preceded in death by his beloved wife of fifty-six years, Angela Elizabeth Wainerdi, mother Margaret Wainerdi, father Harold Wainerdi, mother-in-law Angeline and father-in-law Thomas Lampone, daughter-in-law Belinda Wainerdi. He is survived by his sons, Thomas J. "T.J." and wife Debbie Wainerdi, James C. and wife Basma Wainerdi, grandchildren, Courtney and husband Gabe Wisneski, Sean and wife Jennifer Wainerdi, Chad and wife Grace Wainerdi, Brandon Wainerdi and fiancé Maggie Hunter, Christopher Wainerdi, Ryan Wainerdi, Allison and husband Richard Waldman, Eva Kluber, great grandchildren Cannon Wisneski, Will Wisneski, Ella Wisneski, Owen Wisneski, Aiden Wainerdi, Callie Wainerdi, Brooke Wainerdi, Kohl Wainerdi, Landon Wainerdi, Bridget Burkhalter, Reagan Waldman, Madison Waldman, Lyndon Waldman, nieces Patricia and husband Louis Pozzi, Linda and Ben Alvarez, half-brother Harold "Hal" Wainerdi, cousins Suzanne Schwimmer and David Schwimmer and his beloved extended family, Maria Solano, Eva Johnson, Lori Nelson and Gladys Castro.
A private service will be held in College Station, Texas on Thursday, March 25, 2021.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested memorial gifts may be made to:
Fisher House Foundation
12300 Twinbrook Pkwy, Suite 410
Rockville, MD 20852
The Rise School
c/o Janet Staily, Executive Director
5618 H. Mark Crosswell, Jr. Street
Houston, Texas 77021
Published by Houston Chronicle on Mar. 21, 2021.