Richard T. Feller (‘42 BS)*
Richard T. Feller graduated from West Virginia University’s College of Engineering in 1942 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He retired after a 37-year career as Clerk of the Works at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, known as Washington’s National Cathedral.
Feller was born in Fairmont and raised in Martinsburg where he worked in his father’s construction firm after graduating from WVU. While at the University, he was drum major for the WVU Marching Band and served as president of Kappa Alpha fraternity.
He moved to Washington, D.C., in 1953 to work as an accountant and assistant to the business manager and treasurer of the cathedral and to study theology, church history, linguistics and the Bible.
By 1957, Feller was named Clerk of the Works, a Middle Ages’ term for cathedral builder or one who was educated and trained in building construction and hiring people. After three years as cathedral administrator, he relinquished those duties in 1979 to oversee the project’s construction and artwork.
The pure Gothic cathedral is located on Mount Saint Alban, the highest hill in the D.C. area. Congress granted a charter to build the cathedral in 1893. When the first foundation stone was laid in 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt was present for the ceremony.
Finding skilled craftsman, carvers, masons, artisans and sculptors to build the edifice with its 200 stained glass windows, its flying buttresses, gargoyles and bas relief structure was harrowing. Many critics doomed the efforts as a waste of time. Ceaseless problems with funding and major calamities like world wars repeatedly interrupted construction.
The cathedral, the sixth largest in the world, is affiliated with the Episcopal church and is open to all faiths.
Feller is the senior author of “For Thy Great Glory,” a history of the cathedral from its inception to its dedication. He has written numerous articles and is a recognized authority on Gothic sculpture and stained glass and lectures extensively on those subjects at colleges and art museums.
In 1982, he was given the title of Canon, bestowed in him by the Right Rev. John Walker, Bishop of Washington. Feller is the first lay person on the cathedral staff to be given the title.
Among his many honors, Feller received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Washington College and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Goldey-Beacom College at commencement ceremonies in May of 1991. He also received, in 1990, the Good Citizenship Gold Medal by the National Sons of the American Revolution, their highest award, and was elected to the board of directors of the Cosmos Club of downtown Washington, D.C.
Mr. Feller passed away in December 2002.