Hu named inaugural Richard G. Engelsmann Dean of Arts & Sciences

Left to right: Provost Beverly Wendland, Feng Sheng Hu, Richard G. “Dick” Engelsmann, Diane Buhr Engelsmann, and Chancellor Andrew D. Martin attend a festival on the Olin Library lawn following the installation ceremony. (Photo: Sean Garcia)

Feng Sheng Hu, dean of Arts & Sciences and the Lucille P. Markey Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences, was installed as the inaugural Richard G. Engelsmann Dean of Arts & Sciences during an Aug. 30 ceremony at Washington University in St. Louis.

The newly endowed position was established thanks to a gift from Richard G. “Dick” Engelsmann, a lifelong St. Louisan and friend of Washington University. A formal installation ceremony was held in Graham Chapel, followed by a reception and a student festival on the Olin Library lawn.

Richard G. “Dick” Engelsmann (left) with Feng Sheng Hu during Hu’s installation Aug. 30 as the inaugural Richard G. Engelsmann Dean of Arts & Sciences. (Photo: Dan Donovan/Washington University)

“Through their philanthropy and service, Dick and his wife, Diane Buhr Engelsmann, have advanced the missions of many St. Louis institutions. We are fortunate that they are now helping advance Washington University’s mission through the establishment of an endowed deanship,” said Chancellor Andrew D. Martin.

“Dick Engelsmann has been pushing his limits for decades, starting as a young man in the 1960s with a yearlong solo trip around the world,” Martin said. “Thanks to Dick’s vision and his extraordinary gift to Arts & Sciences, Dean Hu and his successors will have this permanent source of support to advance the school’s strategic goals, address urgent needs, attract and retain outstanding faculty and launch innovative new programs.

“It is appropriate that Dean Hu, who has developed a clear vision for moving the school forward as a global model of a premier school of arts and sciences, will be the first to hold this deanship in Dick’s name.”

Hu, who joined Washington University as dean in July 2020, oversees all aspects of the school’s operations and programs.

During his installation address, titled “Transformations,” Hu talked about his personal and professional journey as well as the school’s 10-year strategic plan, which he announced in late 2021 and which aims to transform scholarship, teaching and impact.

Since the plan’s launch, Arts & Sciences has recruited a large cohort of distinguished scholars to join its faculty; developed signature initiatives to spark convergent breakthroughs in research and education; set a new record for external research funding; established faculty and graduate student awards to recognize and inspire innovative research and diverse perspectives; optimized administrative structures to achieve operational excellence; and spearheaded impactful projects to enhance facilities, including a new 120,000-square-foot building at the heart of the Danforth Campus.

Students signed a large ampersand during a festival Aug. 30 following Feng Sheng Hu’s installation as the inaugural Richard G. Engelsmann Dean of Arts & Sciences. (Photo: Sean Garcia)

“I am very honored to be the inaugural Richard G. Engelsmann Dean of Arts & Sciences,” Hu said. “This generous gift from Dick Engelsmann will allow Arts & Sciences to shape Washington University in extraordinary ways for years to come.

“This deanship will be a transformational force as Arts & Sciences implements a strategic plan that strives to nurture and advance bold and diverse research collaborations, expand student access and support, amplify our public impact and create scholar-citizens who will change the world in significant ways,” Hu said.

In addition to his administrative leadership, Hu is widely recognized for his innovative, interdisciplinary research on long-term ecosystem dynamics in relation to climate change. Prior to his appointment at Washington University, Hu was a leader and faculty member at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. From 2017 to 2020, he served as the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

An elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Hu also has been named a Packard Fellow in Science and Engineering; a University Scholar of the University of Illinois; a Fulbright Scholar; and a fellow of the Ecological Society of America.

About Richard G. ‘Dick’ Engelsmann

Engelsmann earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale University in 1961. His father, William H. Engelsmann, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Washington University in 1921.

In 1969, Dick, his father and his brother founded Beltservice Corp. The company, which began in Dick’s apartment, grew to become one of the world’s leading fabricators of custom conveyor belts and a major belting wholesaler.

Today, it is headquartered in a 280,000-square-foot facility in Earth City, Mo., with locations in five states and three countries. The business is now led by a fourth generation of Engelsmanns, and Dick has transitioned from CEO to chairman emeritus.

His first wife, the late Judith Engelsmann, earned a bachelor’s degree in fashion design from the university in 1965. Together, she and Dick had four children: Peter, Alex, Abby and Ken.

Since 1966, he has supported many schools and programs within the university, including the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Olin Business School and the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy. He also has been active in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the University Travel Lecture Series.

“It gives me great pleasure to know that this gift will provide Dean Hu an important source of support to help advance his vision for the future of Arts & Sciences,” Engelsmann said. “As a St. Louisan with family connections to the campus, I’ve always had a fondness for Washington University and have taken advantage of its many resources. I’m grateful to be able to give back to this institution that has such tremendous global reach and impact.”

The Engelsmann family also supports St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Saint Louis Zoo, Nine PBS, CHAMP Assistance Dogs, the Special Education Foundation and the Central Institute for the Deaf, among other organizations.

An avid sports fan, Engelsmann is a world traveler with a passion for adventure. At age 25, he took a solo trip around the world for nearly a year. His travels have brought him to all seven continents and have included stops in Antarctica, North Korea and Iran. In 2018, at age 80, he visited Queensland, New Zealand, where he bungee jumped 200 feet from a bridge.

Dick and Diane, former executive director of the Special Education Foundation, live in St. Louis with their dog, Brinkley, and spend time in Charlevoix, Mich., and North Palm Beach, Fla.

Read more on The Source.