The United States has weathered its share of disasters in recent years—terrorist attacks, hurricanes, oil spills, plane crashes—cataclysmic events that were enough to make you wonder what the world was coming to. Through them all, there was one person who certainly wasn’t hanging his head in despair. And that’s because he had too much to do. As the chair and third-generation leader of Weeks Marine Inc., a leading marine construction, dredging, and tunneling firm, Richard N. Weeks, along with his son Richard S. Weeks, the CEO and president of the company, marshaled the considerable resources of  his far-flung operation to come to  the rescue. 

Three days after the Twin Towers collapsed into toxic heaps of smoldering rubble on September 11, 2001, Weeks Marine quickly dredged spots on the East and Hudson rivers in order to accommodate their huge floating cranes, which served as transfer stations to ferry the enormous amount of debris and scrap iron to Staten Island and New Jersey. Eight years later, Weeks Marine was back at work on the Hudson River after another calamity, this time salvaging the carcass of the US Airways commuter jet that was forced to make an emergency river landing on January 15, 2009, an incident with a happy ending, thanks to the heroics of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. Two days later, battling heavy winds and ice floes clotting the river, the Weeks team used one of its towering cranes and a team of divers to retrieve the waterlogged Airbus.

In 2009, Weeks began working alongside the Army Corp of Engineers to help build the Lake Borgne Surge Barrier (nicknamed the Great Wall of New Orleans) to prevent levee breaches like the ones that caused the massive flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In the Gulf of Mexico, where the company has a big presence, Weeks Marine helped clean up the 2010 BP oil spill, the worst in U.S. history, by building berms and artificial islands to prevent oil from leaching into sensitive wetlands. And in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, Weeks Marine helped in the coastal restoration up and down the Jersey Shore and even dismantled the Seaside Heights roller coaster, the iconic symbol of the shore’s devastation.

Rendering of future School of Engineering


Richard N. Weeks recently donated $6 million to the School of Engineering to help fund the construction of a new engineering building on the Busch Campus at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. The Richard Weeks Hall of Engineering will be completed in 2018.

Rendering courtesy of School of Engineering

Recently, Richard N. Weeks ENG’50 came to the aid of Rutgers when he donated $6 million to the School of Engineering to help fund the construction of a new 100,000-square-foot engineering building on the Busch Campus in Piscataway. The Richard Weeks Hall of Engineering, which will be completed  in 2018, will support the renewed emphasis that Rutgers is placing on engineering in promoting interdisciplinary research that attracts large-scale federal funding and encourages private industry to work with Rutgers.

“I expect Rutgers to be on the forefront of providing an engineering education,” says Weeks. “It makes sense, given the needs of the state and the makeup of the student body. Rutgers has always offered opportunities to people who have recently arrived in the United States and to first generations of college-bound students, who are often drawn to engineering and are making a difference.”

Weeks’s gift will be augmented by an anonymous $4 million donation, according to the Rutgers University Foundation, the fundraising arm of the university, which just completed the most successful campaign in its history, raising more than  $1 billion. Private support for the construction of the new engineering building now stands at $23.8 million. “This is the first time that the School of Engineering will have a building named for an alumnus,” says Thomas Farris, the school’s dean. “We will tell Mr. Weeks’s story in this building, as well as the stories of other alumni who are leaders in their fields. These stories will inspire our students, showing them how they, too, can do what Mr. Weeks and others have done with their Rutgers engineering degrees.”

Weeks, who grew up in the Bronx and Rutherford, New Jersey, entered Rutgers after World War II, eagerly pursuing his interest in all things mechanical. At Rutgers, he cultivated his strong inclination to think for himself, an independent streak that has served Weeks Marine immeasurably. “My father is just a great sounding board,” says son Richard. “It’s very helpful when I want to test ideas and assumptions. And I am not the only one who takes advantage of this talent.”

Although Richard N. Weeks’s father, Richard B. Weeks, was content to have the company provide only stevedoring  services, which is the loading and unloading of cargo ships, Weeks saw, and wanted, more. He realized, given the company’s resources, Weeks Marine could expand its services: if it could load the holds of cargo ships, why not use the cranes to rip out aging piers or dredge clogged waterways? Spotting opportunities, he began acquiring equipment and buying companies doing related work.

The company has come quite a long way since Weeks’s father along with his grandfather, Francis Weeks, founded it as Weeks Stevedoring Company in 1919, starting with two floating cranes in the Port of New York. By the beginning of World War II, Weeks Marine had purchased its seventh crane and was loading military equipment bound for Europe. In the last three decades, the company has undergone its most dramatic growth. With shipyards and facilities in New Jersey, Louisiana, Texas, and Hawaii, among other locations, Weeks serves clients throughout North and South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Rim. Its services include dredging (constituting more than half its business), construction, stevedoring, towing, heavy lifting and salvage, equipment rental, and tunneling.

“It just sort of happened,” says Weeks. “You pursue opportunities and try to make the best of what you are good at, with your people, your capital and equipment, and your position in the marketplace. Our business grows, and then plateaus, and grows some more. The next thing you know,  you are working in Canada or the  Caribbean or Hawaii.” And coming to the aid of the nation during its hours of utmost need. •