Sidney O. “Sid” Dewberry, chairman emeritus and founding partner of Dewberry, Virginia’s largest engineering business and one of the biggest in the country, has died. He was 94.
Dewberry, P.E., L.S., Dist.M.ASCE, co-founded his eponymous professional services firm in 1956. It grew from a single-office, six-person civil engineering and surveying practice based in Northern Virginia to a nationwide consulting enterprise with 50 offices today.
He belonged to what were once called “subdivision doctors,” helping developers find land, rezone it, then plan for the construction of homes. If a homeowner in Fairfax County, Virginia, were to look at the plat of his or her home, chances are Dewberry’s name would be on it.
One of Dewberry’s landmark projects was the Filene Center, the main performance venue at Wolf Trap, the national park for the performing arts. After it was destroyed by fire in 1982, Dewberry provided the complete architectural and engineering services for its reconstruction.
At a young age he watched his father supervise bridge construction crews and realized that he wanted to become an engineer. After serving two years in the U.S. Army, he attended Virginia Tech for two years, then transferred to George Washington University, where he received his civil engineering degree in 1951.
Five years later, Dewberry teamed with fellow engineer Jim Nealon in 1956 to launch their own firm supporting suburban development in the D.C. region. His wife, Reva, served as bookkeeper and a silent partner for the practice, headquartered in Fairfax since 1965.
Dewberry dedicated himself to advancing the practice of the planning, engineering, and surveying professions while being involved in the day-to-day management of the organization. The firm also provides design and consulting expertise for major land development initiatives, transportation infrastructure, emergency management and disaster response, municipal engineering, and building design. It continues to be family owned.
Dewberry was proud of the company’s fast-tracked design of the Dulles Toll Road as well as planning and engineering for communities such as Montgomery Village in Maryland and Burke Centre in Northern Virginia.
His interests led him to co-author the widely used Land Development Handbook, published by McGraw-Hill in 1995 and now in its fourth edition. He was a founding member and chairman of the Engineers & Surveyors Institute, a model for government-industry partnership, and of George Mason University’s Urban Systems Engineering Institute.
Dewberry was showered with awards and honors from professional, community, and educational institutions. He considered receiving the George Mason University Mason Medal one of his highest achievements.
He was a distinguished member and life member of ASCE. He also belonged to the American Public Works Association, National Society of Professional Engineers, Virginia Association of Surveyors, and the Surveyors Historical Society. He served on many commissions, as appointed by Virginia governors.
In 1995 he established the Sidney O. Dewberry Collection of Surveying and Engineering Technology, always on display at the Dewberry headquarters.
Dewberry loved music, and at 74 learned to play the piano. The Reva and Sid Dewberry Family School of Music was established at George Mason University to support and provide scholarships to its music program.