ENR Managing Editor Tudor W. Van Hampton, whose passion for journalism, multimedia skill and management ability propelled his career, died in Indianapolis on Feb. 4 at age 39. He had battled a grade-four brain tumor that was diagnosed in early 2016.
His embrace of construction and its workers, as well as industry equipment, tools, law and jobsite safety earned the respect and admiration of industry professionals.
Van Hampton had been an equipment trade publication editor and then an ENR freelancer before joining the staff in Chicago in 2002. In 2007, he covered the fatal I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, which was followed a year later by a major investigative series on construction crane accidents.
For that series, Van Hampton attended a 60-hour intensive training class for tower crane operators in Phoenix and passed a national written and practical exam through the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators—vividly sharing the experience of operating the machine with ENR's audience in print and in video. In 2013, he retook the exam, passed it and became recertified.
"Having never sat in a tower crane, I soon discovered how operators must keep the hook 'quiet,' or still, as the crane constantly moves to keep up with production. The trick, I learned, is to anticipate movements before they start," Van Hampton wrote. "As I tried to navigate the obstacle course, my load swung wildly from side to side as I engaged the swing gear, then rolled forward and back whenever I trolleyed. Never mind that the crane bobbed up and down and torqued from side to side, tweaking my nerves. After a few more tries, I made the load hover quietly over its target. Soon enough, I was navigating the course in a slow-and-steady movement. Being able to control the load is surprisingly gratifying."
Van Hampton covered the construction industry worldwide, visiting sites in Europe, the Middle East and China. He developed proficiency in developing content for print, digital, video and other media. "ENR has been a very important part of my life," Van Hampton told his editorial peers in 2016. "The history at this magazine is incredible, and I am glad to see how much readers in the industry appreciate how [ENR] can help them do their jobs more effectively."
Said George Young, CEO of The George Young Cos., a New Jersey rigging contractor: "The crane, rigging, heavy transportation, and construction industry have not only lost a friend but an objective voice that caused us to examine ourselves from time to time."
Van Hampton’s journalism projects for ENR received multiple national awards, including the McAllister Editorial Fellowship from American Business Media in 2009, which allowed him to share with students and teachers at Northwestern University’s renowned Medill School of Journalism the importance of trade and business-to-business publishing. He won five Jesse H. Neal Awards and also delivered a Jellinger Distinguished Lecture to construction and environmental engineering students at Iowa State University.
As ENR Midwest bureau chief and national managing editor, Van Hampton could spot developing trends, such as his 2009 coverage of Textura Corp., which developed what became a widely used, patented electronic signature process for once-tedious financial transactions (it was acquired last year by Oracle Corp. for $663 million), a 2011 look at how construction professionals were integrating I-Pads as a jobsite tool (with video), and the industry's use of video games as the backbone of virtual-reality design and construction tools, a story that includes his on-camera interviews with experts. He also scored one of the first interviews in 2011 with Douglas Oberhelman, then the new CEO of equipment giant Caterpillar Corp., for an in-depth profile.
He introduced equipment test drives and reviews as an ENR editorial staple and promoted innovations in ENR's content, processes and tools as it moved to meet audience demand for new areas of coverage and faster delivery methods.
Van Hampton-produced video reports, including his on and off-camera narration, can be found at ENR's video site.
"Tudor set a high bar for construction reporting and had a passion for thoroughly understanding every aspect of his subject matter," says David Richter, CEO of Philadelphia project management firm Hill International. "He brought leadership to the most respected publication in our industry and important timely topics to the forefront."
Van Hampton and the Tools of the Trade
Clifford Schexnayder Jr., equipment expert and retired professor in the Del E. Webb School of Construction at Arizona State University, recalls someone with "a shared passion for construction equipment… always trying to figure out how to help someone," he says.
“I worked with Tudor for 14 years as a colleague and journalist, friend and confidant. We shared a passion for construction, heavy machinery and writing," adds Tony Illia, spokesman for the Nevada Dept. of Transportation in Las Vegas and a former ENR special correspondent. "Tudor was a gifted and driven journalist and editor with a keenly inquisitive mind. He fearlessly tackled tough, technically complex issues with brio and brilliance. But he was funny, too; the type of guy people want to have a beer with."
Van Hampton also made lasting global connections. "By connecting me with other reporters, he allowed some of my thoughts to be heard in the American professional press," says Aviad Shapira, a construction engineering and management professor, noted tower crane researcher and past associate dean at The Technion in Haifa, Israel. "He definitely has had an important part in my academic success."
Van Hampton also was a longtime freelance journalist who contributed for five years to the automotive section of The New York Times. In 2009, he tested the Caterpillar D7E bulldozer with electric drive for both ENR and the newspaper, and in 2012, researched and wrote a 100-year retrospective on GMC trucks published by The Times. He also was an accomplished photographer, video producer, blogger and tweeter under the Blog title and Twitter handle Dr. Diesel.
A 2014 article for Indianapolis Monthly paints a short but colorful picture, with words and photos, of workers and their daily life 250 ft below the city as they build its ongoing $1-billion stormwater tunnel network; Van Hampton termed it "a subway-esque system for sludge."
Editor, Painter, Building Engineer
Van Hampton, a native of Overland Park, Kan., graduated from the University of Kansas, Lawrence, with degrees in English and Theater & Film. Experiences as a resident assistant, newsletter editor, commercial painter, amateur racing instructor and building maintenance engineer added to his editorial and mechanical skill and shaped an early fascination with engineering and construction.
"Thank you to the ENR staff for changing the course of Tudor's life, for giving it meaning, purpose, and stability, and for your support of Tudor and our family," says Jenie Van Hampton, his wife of 10 years.
In addition to his wife, Van Hampton is survived by a daughter Jordan, age six, and extended family in Indianapolis, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Cunningham, Kan.
Please view this link to read a personal obituary for Van Hampton.
More information will be forthcoming on a memorial service for Van Hampton to take place in the coming months, she says.
ENR Editor-in-Chief Janice Tuchman, who hired Van Hampton, shares her sense of his contributions in a tribute.
Donations or volunteering in memory of Van Hampton can be done in linking to Indy Habitat for Humanity, Indianapolis, to the ACE Mentor Program, or to Canstruction, whose executive director he had previously nominated as a 2017 ENR newsmaker for her effort to expand the design-based anti-hunger nonprofit from North America to a global presence. Carrie Kirk will be recognized for that, among 24 other Newsmakers, at ENR's Award of Excellence events in New York City on April 13.
Messages of condolence can be sent to Jenie Van Hampton, 484 E. Carmel Drive, Carmel, IN 46032-2812.
ENR welcomes your remembrance of Tudor Van Hampton posted in the comments section below.