UC Berkeley professor emeritus David Jenkins dies at age 85

article image


We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

APRIL 29, 2021

Remembered for being a “leading light” in his profession, UC Berkeley professor emeritus David Jenkins died March 6 at the age of 85.

Jenkins began his career in academia shortly after graduating from Durham University in 1960 with a Ph.D. in public health. In 1964, he joined UC Berkeley as an assistant professor in the department of civil engineering and eventually achieved full professor status in 1975, where he stayed until his retirement in 1999.

Jenkins was highly regarded around the world for his “groundbreaking” developments in wastewater treatment processes, according to a memorial written by his department colleagues. Through his craft, he was able to continue the notable legacy of his father Samuel H. Jenkins, who was known for his contributions in cleaning up River Thames and other polluted rivers.

In addition to his career and academic achievements, Jenkins was best known for his immensely caring and warm nature, as he devoted much of himself to his family, students and colleagues, the memorial reads. His colleagues noted that he and his wife Joan were an “inseparable” team and welcomed his students as extended family members.

JB Neethling, a former student of Jenkins, described his experience working with Jenkins as one that was memorable.

“Prof. Jenkins tackled tough research topics and always linked it to practical problems and challenges,” Neethling said in an email. “While I think of him as my mentor and advisor, I remember him as my friend who shared his home and family with students and friends.”

Students, family and colleagues alike remembered Jenkins as someone who not only cared for his craft but cared for those around him as well.

Paul Pitt, another former student of Jenkins, recalled how Jenkins picked him up from the airport when he first arrived to the United States from the United Kingdom and how Jenkins helped him settle in.

“It always amazed me that this internationally renowned Prof gave so much of his time to make a new graduate student feel at home,” Pitt said in an email. “Students were always invited into his home for holidays every year.  This was the essence of David he went above and beyond for his students.”

Jenkins’ former colleague Garrison Sposito also reflected on his experience working with Jenkins for the California Environmental Protection Agency. Sposito noted that Jenkins’ specialty was imposing regulations that ensured polluted rivers and streams could be brought up to clean water standards.

Sposito said this speciality was a way Jenkins felt he could significantly contribute to the public good, an ethic he believed traced back to his academic roots in public health.

“The words, ‘Dr. Jenkins was here and helped us out’ will continue to be heard at plants around the world for years to come,” his colleagues wrote in the memorial.

Contact Imani Salazar-Nahle at  or on Twitter


APRIL 29, 2021