Comments on Richard E. Wainerdi, PE., PhD
Former Chief Executive Officer of the Texas Medical Center (1984-2012)
Houston AGC Master Builder 2002
Dick Wainerdi, as he invited the members of AGC to call him, passed away on March 17, 2021, St. Patrick’s Day. Those who knew him well are smiling, because he had a deep love of ceremony that contained pomp and circumstance, and so the anniversary of his death will always be celebrated with parades and parties. He could not have planned it better!
It requires looking though many prisms to gain the full measure of this remarkable man. He was first a professional engineer, and the initials P.E were proudly next to his name on all correspondence as were his PhD designation. He was a scholar and scientist with an undergraduate degree in Petroleum Engineering from Oklahoma University, which he attended on scholarship. He also earned a master’s degree and a Doctorate from Penn State University. He served his country as an officer in the United States Air Force and was a lifelong “duty soldier” at his post by 7 AM and there until 5 or beyond. He held several teaching and executive positions in scientific institutions and companies before accepting the top leadership role at TMC.
He was a committed friend of AGC, a fact not readily visible because of his direct, stern, and authoritarian communication style. In the dreadful 1980’s, the building program at TMC, the second largest amount of work on a single campus in the country, saved many Houston construction firms. He knew how potentially devastating the downturn of 1983 -1990 could be and pushed all TMC member institutions to move forward with their building programs. Periodically, he would request meetings at the chapter office to brief members about items that would impact their costs. As TMC expanded and parking options became more remote, he wanted to make sure contractors had enough in their bids and proposals to cover additional cost of transportation. He also wanted money in their estimates to maintain pristine jobsite cleanliness; he was obsessed with dust and noise control. He wanted the highest quality builders, and he wanted TMC projects to be profitable work, so they would return. He regularly turned to the industry during crises. AGC helped round up pumps after Alicia and generators after the early hurricanes. Chapter members also supplied knowledgeable, take charge superintendents both to their client institutions and to TMC. Doctor Wainerdi appreciated these ring-wise pros taking command, with indifference to rank or fame, until the problems were under control.
He was well-advised by two TMC Board Members who were AGC Icons, Paul Bell, and George Bellows. He relied heavily on their guidance and recommendations. They developed great mutual respect. Most appropriately, TMC named a main road for George and Ann Bellows, and the Thermal Energy Cooperative (TECO) Building for Paul Gervais Bell. Houston AGC honored Richard E. Wainerdi, P.E, PhD, with the Master Builder Award in 2002. Doctor Wainerdi is the last member of this powerful trio to die. However, the spectacular skyline of the Texas Medical Center is the permanent monument to their achievements. The contractors of AGC will remember Doctor Wanerdi with deep gratitude.