Emory Kemp

Emory Leland Kemp passed away on Monday, Jan. 20, at Ruby Memorial Hospital, from heart failure. He was born on Oct. 1, 1931, in Chicago, to Anita and Emory Leland Kemp. The Kemps moved to Champaign, Ill., when he was a boy. He was a proud graduate of the University of Illinois’s University High School and the University of Illinois, where he received the Ira O. Baker Award as the Outstanding Civil Engineering Graduate in 1952, earning a Bachelor of Science degree with highest honors.

After graduation, he served as an assistant engineer for the Illinois State Water Survey and went to London in 1953 on a Fulbright Fellowship, where he received a diploma from the Imperial College of Science and Technology in 1955 and a Master of Science degree in engineering from the University of London in 1958.
As a structural engineer for leading engineering firms in London, he worked on projects such as the construction of the roof of the Sydney Opera House. He then returned to the University of Illinois to earn his Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics in 1962.

With that new degree, Emory came to West Virginia University as an associate professor of civil engineering, specializing in structures and concrete. He then served as chair of the Department of Civil Engineering, established the program in the history of science and technology, and, in 1989, the Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology.

His professional activities included service as president of the Vandalia Heritage Foundation, Public Works Historical Society, and Society for Industrial Archeology; member of the board of directors of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation and West Virginia Humanities Council; and a founder of the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia.

He was also a certified lay speaker of the United Methodist Church, preaching at many churches in the area, and president of the University Christian Council that served WVU students.

Emory lectured and published widely in the areas of civil engineering, especially focusing on the properties of concrete and methods to analyze historic structures. As a pioneer in the fields of industrial archaeology and the history of technology, he supervised, documented, or consulted on many projects, including the preservation of the Philippi Covered Bridge, Wheeling Suspension Bridge, Wheeling Custom House (West Virginia Independence Hall) and the documentation of the Fairbank Oil Fields in London, Ontario, Canada.

Among his many honors, three of the most significant were election to the Order of Vandalia for Distinguished Service to West Virginia University, as a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and as a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers in the United Kingdom.

He is survived by his wife, Janet Kemp; his children, Mark Kemp, Geoffrey Kemp and Alison (Edward) Anderson; his grandchildren, Paul Anderson, Colin, Mairwyn and Sayward Kemp and Adrienne, Max and Josie Kemp-Rye; and a cousin John (Martha) Kemp.

In addition to his parents, his brother Donald, sister-in-law, Janet, and niece, Sarah Kemp have also passed away.

Emory donated his body to the WVU School of Medicine through the Human Gift Registry. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 2 p.m. at Wesley United Methodist Church, 503 North High St., Morgantown.

Emory donated his papers to the WVU West Virginia and Regional History Center so that others may continue his work studying historic engineering structures. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the WVU Foundation, P.O. Box 1650, Morgantown, WV 26507-1650 for the Dr. Emory L. Kemp History of Technology Endowment Fund, which he and Janet established in conjunction with the donation of his papers. Donations may also be made to that fund online at Please note the fund number of 3L526 as part of your donation. Donations to your favorite charity are also appreciated.