Omer Allan Gianniny Jr., a humanities professor emeritus in the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, died Aug. 31 in Charlottesville. He was 86.
A Charlottesville native, Gianniny earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from U.Va. in 1947 and returned in 1955 to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees in the Curry School of Education. He taught in the English department for several years and transferred to the Engineering School’s humanities department, now the Department of Engineering and Society, in 1965. Gianniny chaired humanities from 1979 to 1980 and 1990 to 1993. He retired as professor emeritus in 1993.
Gianniny championed the study of humanities subjects for engineering students and advocated a broad, interdisciplinary perspective. He taught technical communications, popular culture and the role of the engineer in society.
In addition, he was a member of the Humanities Institute for Teachers, a state program for high school teachers that was held at U.Va. He was also a member of the liberal studies division of the American Society for Engineering Education.
Raul Baragiola, U.Va. materials science and engineering professor, called Gianniny “the father of humanities” in the Engineering School.
“He was a great colleague and had one of the most distinguished careers in the School of Engineering and Applied Science,” Baragiola said.
Gianniny’s awards and recognitions included: the Mac Wade Award for Service to the School of Engineering and Applied Science (1988); the Virginia Engineering Foundation Award for service to Engineering School (1993); and the American Society of Engineering Education’s Sterling Olmsted Annual Award for Service in the Liberal Education Division (1990).
When the Rotunda was restored in the 1970s, Gianniny documented and researched the building’s history. In 1981, he co-authored “Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda Restored 1973-1976: A Pictorial Review with Commentary” with his lifelong colleague and friend Joseph Lee Vaughan.
In addition, Gianniny’s ancestors worked for Jefferson, and he co-edited “The Gianninis of Virginia: The Descendants of Antonio and Maria Giannini: Vignerons and Gardeners: Immigrants, 1773,” published in 1996.