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Sam F.
Democrat CA 20

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  • In Honor of Jon Dana Raggett

    by Representative Sam Farr

    Posted on 2015-12-09

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    FARR of california in the house of representatives Wednesday, December 9, 2015 Mr. FARR. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the life and accomplishments of a remarkable man and to mourn his passing. Jon Raggett was a brilliant engineer, an enthusiastic and accomplished builder of kayaks, and a tireless and generous philanthropist who founded a nonprofit whose mission was to build schools in developing countries. He was also a lifelong friend of mine, who died following a sudden illness on September 26, 2015, at the age of 71.

    Jon Dana Raggett was born July 9, 1944, and he grew up in Carmel, California, where his love for boats and the sea was born. Jon graduated from Princeton University with an engineering degree, received an MS from Stanford University, and returned to Princeton to complete his Ph.D. in civil engineering. Throughout his engineering career, he brought his keen analytical mind and his imaginative creativity to projects in structural engineering, earthquake research, and the aerodynamic effects of extreme wind on bridges. Through West Wind Laboratory, which he founded in 1988, he performed wind studies on major bridge, architectural, and industrial projects all over the world. Closer to home, Jon worked on the Golden Gate Bridge, including the creation of a suicide barrier and a retrofit to improve the performance of the bridge in high winds, and he also worked on the new span of the Bay Bridge. John also served as a member of the engineering faculty at Santa Clara University and the Naval Postgraduate School.

    In 1994, inspired by Theodore Roosevelt's admonition to ``do what you can with what you have,'' Jon founded Schools3, a nonprofit corporation which began as Jon's attempt to use his engineering skills to address problems of poverty in the developing world. Jon worked on a design for a three-room primary school with an office-storage building and a latrine which could be built with concrete blocks, a metal roof, and finished with plaster walls. This design could be built inexpensively all over the world, and through Schools3 Jon was able to fund and complete the construction of 71 schools in Africa, Honduras, and India. Jon donated his time and the time of his assistant Ann Keeble to Schools3, so every dollar contributed went directly towards the construction of a school, with no overhead, administrative, or marketing costs. In 2002, Schools3 received a commendation for this work from the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee in its report on Foreign Operations.

    Jon also used his structural design skills to create musical instruments out of plywood and furniture which was inventive and playful. But his primary passion was for building boats, and designed and built countless beautiful kayaks over the years, no sooner completing one project than he began thinking about how he would improve on the design for the next boat, and there was always a next boat. At Jon's service, his sisters-in-law quoted from Kenneth Grahame's beloved The Wind in the Willows: ``Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.'' No one believed this more deeply than Jon Raggett.

    Jon and his wife Tory, a talented artist whom he met when they were both 10 years old, raised two sons, Mark and George. When grandchildren Joe, Hugh, Mae, and Owen arrived, Jon took delight in introducing them to the joys of being on the water. Jon's love of his family, his deep commitment to doing what he could to make the world a better place, and his impressive accomplishments in civil engineering combined to create an extraordinary man. His untimely death is an enormous loss not only to his beloved family and many friends, but to the world which he worked so hard to improve. Mr. Speaker, I ask the entire House to join me in celebrating the life of this exemplary man and his remarkable accomplishments.


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