Editor's Letter

08/29/2016 | By Chris Olson

A Salute to a Scholar and a Gentleman

Chris Olson, Chief Content Director

At the end of July, long-time BUILDINGS friend and contributor Richard “Dick” Fricklas passed away. A researcher, author, journalist and educator, Dick did it all with an affability that belied his many achievements.  

His roofing career started in 1957 as an R&D chemist for Johns Manville (JM). Later he joined the JM Roofing Division, where he received a patent for a fire-rated vapor retarder system and co-developed other patented products. He also worked with FM Global and Underwriter’s Laboratories on fire-rated roof systems. He led JM’s Built-Up Roofing Systems Institute (BURSI) school for architects and engineers and then became the first technical director of the Roofing Industry Educational Institute (RIEI). Somehow Dick found time to complete a Master’s in Physical Chemistry in 1972.

After “retiring” from RIEI in 1996, Dick never stopped. He wrote a Technical Instruction publication for the Corps of Engineers, co-authored two editions of The Manual of Low Slope Roofing, and taught roofing seminars at the University of Wisconsin. Over his career, he received numerous awards from ASTM, NRCA, RCI, BURSI and the Institute of Roofing and Waterproofing Consultants.

I first became acquainted with Dick in the 1980s when I worked at an AEC publication. I soon became aware of his reputation for roofing knowledge and his geniality.  When I joined BUILDINGS in 2009, I discovered that he was a regular and valued contributor. Always generous in helping editors with their questions, he often offered up his long list of roofing friends and experts as sources. When approaching one of these folks, an editor needed only to say “Dick Fricklas gave me your name . . .” and cooperation was guaranteed.

He had a light-hearted way of getting to the heart of the matter. Once when I phoned him to ask about a product’s claimed performance, he chuckled and said something like “Well sure, that’s true, except that, in certain conditions, there’s this huge fire risk . . .”

For BUILDINGS Dick wrote a total of 164 monthly submissions over the years, as well as a half dozen feature articles. I was looking forward to his 200th. “I don’t know how he came up with so many topics, but he always had a good one ready to go,” says my colleague, Senior Editor Janelle Penny, who worked with Dick on his monthly columns. “He had an incredible work ethic and it was an honor to work with him.”

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