Dr. Richard James (Dick) Ernst, beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary educator, passed away in his sleep on August 15, 2019 at Greenspring Village in Springfield, Virginia. He was 86.
Dr. Ernst was born on February 3, 1933 and grew up in Niagara, Wisconsin. His father, Johann Simon Ernst (known as Seymour), was a German immigrant, and his mother, Rose Marie Berger Ernst, was the daughter of Swiss immigrants. Dr. Ernst was the youngest of the couple’s three sons. In 1949, he and his parents moved to Largo, Florida where he graduated from Largo High School.
Dr. Ernst graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Math in 1956 and received his Masters of Education in Administration in 1959. He received his Doctorate of Education from Florida State University in 1965, and completed post graduate work in math and management at Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, Harvard University, and the University of California Los Angeles. Dr. Ernst served his country in the U.S. Army at Fort Huachuca, Arizona from 1956 – 1958.
A life-long educator, Dr. Ernst taught math at St. Petersburg High School and was an Administrative intern for Pinellas County, Florida. He served as a math instructor, Assistant Dean of Instruction, and Dean of Academic Affairs for St. Petersburg Junior College from 1963 – 1968.
In 1968, Dr. Ernst was named the President of Northern Virginia Community College where he served for 30 years until his retirement in 1998. He oversaw the growth of the college from a small warehouse to six campuses, becoming the second largest community college in the nation serving sixty-five thousand credit students and serving one quarter million individuals annually through a variety of non-credit programs and services. He was proud to open the doors of educational opportunity to all who were seeking it, regardless of their ability to pay.
Dr. Ernst was a long-time member of Providence Presbyterian Church, serving as an Elder, chair of the Personnel Committee, and volunteering on numerous committees. He particularly loved singing in the Providence Sanctuary choir and the Providence Singers choir. He also served on many boards including the American Automobile Association, the Claude Moore Foundation, the American Cancer Society, the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, the Fairfax Council of the Arts, the Fairfax Hospital Association, and the United Way.
He had a passion for sports as a 4-letter athlete in track, football, basketball, and baseball. In his later years he was a highly successful athlete, winning many Senior Olympic gold and silver medals in basketball and track. He also enjoyed cheering on his grandchildren at their many sporting and musical events.
Dr. Ernst was married to Elizabeth McGeachy Ernst for 52 years until her death in 2012. He is survived by hisdaughter Maribeth Ernst Luftglass and son-in-law Robert Luftglass of Fairfax, VA; his daughter Terrie McClure of Manassas, VA; his son Richard James Ernst, Jr. and daughter-in-law Elizabeth Ernst of Fredericksburg, VA; hisgrandchildren Jacob Luftglass of Los Angeles, CA, David Luftglass of Springfield, VA, Adam Luftglass of Fairfax, VA, Blair McAvoy of Charlottesville, VA, Shannon McAvoy of Fairfax, VA, Rose Ernst, Susan Ernst, and Richard J. Ernst III of Fredericksburg, VA and many loving nieces, nephews, cousins, and a host of friends.
His memorial service will be held on Saturday, August 31, 2019 at 11:00 am at Providence Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, VA, immediately followed by a lunch reception.Interment will be held at a later date at the Montreat Memorial Garden in Montreat, NC.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation to:
The Richard J. Ernst Scholarship Fund
Northern Virginia Community College
4001 Wakefield Chapel Rd.
Annandale, VA 22003