Remembering Mr. Watts
A tribute by Danielle Petrak
Royce Jackson Watts, faculty member and founder of the Watts Museum in the Statler College, passed away on May 29, 2020, at the age of 91. He was preceded in death by his wife of 68 years, Caroline Baker Watts.
The first child of a coal miner, Watts was born in a company house in the mining community of Cassity in Randolph County, West Virginia, in 1929. Royce spent the majority of his childhood on his family farm in Tyler County.
After graduating from high school in 1946, Watts enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served in Italy immediately after WWII and then in the Korean War where received the Silver Star for gallantry in combat in 1951. He served in the Army Reserve for many years, retiring as a full colonel in 1989.
Watts earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from West Virginia University and joined the faculty of WVU as an instructor of accounting and economics in 1955. He worked at WVU for six decades, retiring as associate dean of the Statler College in 2017.
In the mid-1980s, Watts spearheaded the establishment of a museum, now known as the Watts Museum, dedicated to the history of West Virginia’s mineral resources and related industries. Along with his wife Caroline, he made major contributions towards the museum’s growth and development and worked to ensure its longevity through the establishment of an endowment.
“Meeting and knowing Mr. Watts is truly one the greatest blessings of my life,” said Danielle Petrak, curator of the Watts Museum. “I am honored to have worked for him and become his friend, and I am so thankful for his mentorship and guidance. The Mountain State is so lucky to have had you here for so many years, Mr. Watts — West Virginia and I will miss you so much.”
His impact will always be felt and appreciated in the halls of the Statler College, and he will always be fondly remembered and honored by the WVU community.
“I was blessed to have the services of Royce Watts as associate dean for administration for my formative years and beyond while serving as dean of the Statler College for nearly 20 years. Royce was truly an extremely devoted alum and employee of this University for nearly 60 years. He cherished WVU and was revered by so many, many people. He is sorely missed, but his contributions to WVU are numerous and indelible. As many people noted to me over the years, ‘Royce was a true soldier.’” — Eugene V. Cilento
Edward “Ed” Lee Bowling80, of Proctorville, Ohio, passed away on May 31. Bowling received his degree in civil engineering from WVU in 1963. He began his career with the C&O Railroad Company, and after assuming other corporate engineering positions, he transitioned to the coal industry as a self-employed coal broker. Bowling is survived by his wife, Dolores Eloise Bowling, two daughters, Amber Ball and Robin Blackburn, a brother, Robert Bowling, seven grandchildren, (Grace Harmanson, Evan Ball, Parker Ball, Noah Blackburn, Carson Ball, Jonah Blackburn and Danae Ball), and four great-grandchildren.
James Nicholas “Jim” Butch68, of Charleston, passed away on June 12. A native of Elkins, West Virginia, Butch graduated from the West Virginia Institute of Technology with a degree in electrical engineering. Following his graduation, he worked for Preiser Mineco before founding the first computer store in West Virginia in 1975. In 1976, he founded Eagle Research Corporation, an electronics manufacturing company, now located in Putnam County. He received numerous awards for contributing to the economy of West Virginia, hiring locally and exporting goods abroad. Butch served on the advisory board at both WVU and WVU Tech, and was a member of the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering in the Statler College. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Frances Rasi Butch, three daughters, Maria Franck, Jaime Frampton and Natalie Swartz, sister, Christina Sanders, brother, David Buccini, nine grandchildren, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
James Reginald "Reg" Dietz90, passed away on May 29. He was a founding member of the Academy of Chemical Engineering in the Statler College. Dietz was employed by National Steel for 30 years and at the time of his retirement he was vice president of research and development. Dietz was past president of the WVU Alumni Association, chairman of the WVU Board of Advisors and a member of the board of directors of the WVU Foundation. He was inducted into the WVU Order of Vandalia in 1987. Dietz is survived by his wife, Billie Jewell Kast, his children Allan, Barbara, Jennelle, and John, as well as three grandchildren and a brother.
Amy Leigh Hill33, passed away on December 8. Hill earned her bachelor’s degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering from WVU in 2007 and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from The Johns Hopkins University. She completed her coursework for her PhD in computational social science at George Mason University and was working on her dissertation before being diagnosed with cancer. Her PhD will be awarded posthumously. Hill worked at Aberdeen Proving Grounds before becoming a senior engineer at The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in 2012. She served as test director for dozens of government field tests and took pleasure in testing and evaluating critical, life-saving systems. Hill is survived by her parents and two sisters.
Robert LeRoy Jamison81, passed away on September 8. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from WVU in 1960. His employment at Allegheny Power Company spanned 36 years. Jamison was a member of several social and professional organizations, including the Jaycees, Rotary Club, Business Round Table, Official Board of the Methodist Church, Professional Engineers Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He served on the marketing and construction committees of the Edison Electric Institute, as well as on the advisory boards of WVU’s electrical engineering and computer science departments, as well as the Pressurized Fluidized Bed Combustion. He is survived by his wife, Sally Bowyer Jamison, daughter, Karey Jamison Brindle, son, David Jamison, three grandsons, Russell Brindle, Benjamin Brindle and Trevor Brindle, and two great-grandchildren.
David Rex Jones Sr.84, of Lebanon, Tennessee, formerly of Ravenswood, West Virginia, passed away on June 7. Jones received his degree in chemical engineering from WVU in 1959. Following his graduation, Jones spent six months on active duty with the U.S. Army in Aberdeen, Maryland, followed by six years in the U.S. Army Reserves. His engineering career began at Weirton Steel, where he was employed for seven years before working at the then Kaiser Aluminum Plant. He retired in 1998 and expanded his woodworking skills to include woodturning and became a very skilled woodturner. He is survived by his wife, Betty Harmon Jones, daughter, Dovie Bowen, son Denis Jones, brother, Bobby Jones, grandchildren Melissa Starcher, Tiffany Bowen, Christina Jones, Jacob Bowen, Morgan Jones, Sylvie Jones, and five great-grandchildren.
Ronald Lloyd Klein81, passed away on August 5. A native of Lexington, Illinois, Klein was an engineer and a professor. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Illinois in Electrical Engineering and earned his PhD from the University of Iowa. Klein served as a faculty member at Kansas University for 10 years before joining West Virginia University, where we would serve for 27 years as chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The passion of his scholarly career was magnetically levitated train systems. Klein could most often be spotting wearing a WVU cap displaying his Mountaineer allegiance.
Alex Chiahuei Kuo70, passed away on December 1. A native of Taipei, Taiwan, he earned his PhD in chemical engineering in 1978 from WVU. He spent 25 years with Union Carbide Corporation and Dow Chemical Company. At the time of his retirement in 2012, he was the president, CEO and a member of the Board of Directors of Taiwan-based Oriental Union Chemical Corporation. He was elected to the WVU Chemical Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni in the Class of 2010. Kuo is survived by his wife, Eva, two sons and a daughter.
James D. Patton78, Morgantown native, passed away on November 11, 2019. Patton graduated from WVU with a BS and MS in chemical engineering. He began his career with Humble Oil over eight other refineries and thus began his career with Exxon. During his time at Exxon, he managed the engineering for mining operations contributed in the development of the Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS) to define safety, security, health and environmental performance criteria for all operations worldwide until he retired in 1999. After the family moved to Puerto Rico, Esso Puerto Rico hired Patton as a consultant for a job for the next ten years. Patton is survived by his wife, Georgina and his sons David and Justin.
Ronald James Robson75, passed away on April 29 at his home in Hurricane, West Virginia. His career with Union Carbide spanned 30 years. Robson received his bachelor’s degree from the Statler College in 1968. He was a member of AICHE and spent many years as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. Robson is survived by his wife, Pauline and his daughter and son.