Richard J. Ernst, a staple of Northern Virginia Community College for 30 years, passed away on Aug. 15 in Springfield, Va. He was 86 years old.
Dr. Ernst was part of NOVA’s fabric since its infancy. The College grew from just a single campus in Annandale when Dr. Ernst’s tenure began in 1968, to five campuses by the time he retired in 1998 — with plans for a sixth in the works.
A Wisconsin native, Dr. Ernst helped NOVA grow exponentially. Under his auspices, NOVA became the largest institution of higher learning in Virginia and the second-largest community college in the country.
Among Dr. Ernst’s most significant contributions are those in the advancement of women and minorities in higher learning. An administrative leadership program he initiated specifically for that purpose helped to produce the first black president in Virginia Community College System history.
“Dr. Ernst’s legacy is the fundamental framework of this college, our focus on the quality of our faculty and NOVA’s ongoing commitment to being an educational and workforce necessity for the entire region,” said Dr. Mel Schiavelli, NOVA’s current interim president.
Education was always paramount in Dr. Ernst’s life. He 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 taught math at St. Petersburg High School and was an administrative intern for Pinellas County, Fl. He worked as a math instructor, Assistant Dean of Instruction, and Dean of Academic Affairs for St. Petersburg Junior College from 1963 to 1968.
A beloved husband, father, and grandfather, Dr. Ernst was also an exceptional athlete, lettering in track, football, basketball, and baseball.
His memorial service took place on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 11:00 a.m. at Providence Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Va. Burial will take place at a later date at Montreat Memorial Garden in Montreat, NC.
Instead of flowers, the family asks that you please consider a donation to:
The Richard J. Ernst Scholarship Fund
Northern Virginia Community College
4001 Wakefield Chapel Road
Annandale, VA 22003
You can donate to the Richard J. Ernst Scholarship Fund online through the Northern Virginia Community College Education Foundation.