By Sherry DiBari

Kristen Murphy Lentz, 63, the first female civil engineering graduate at Old Dominion University and first female director of the Norfolk Department of Utilities, died after a battle with recurrent cancer on Jan. 7.

Lentz, who had a great fondness for her alma mater, was in turn well respected by those in the community and in ODU's Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

"Kristen was an Irish angel from heaven, a kind friend of ODU, and she always found time to give of herself to ODU," said David Pezza, adjunct assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering. "We will miss her deeply."

Lentz's early career included positions as city engineer in Poquoson and assistant director of Public Works for the City of Norfolk.

Lentz became the first female director of Norfolk's Department of Utilities - a position she held for 19 years.

For her years of service, the Norfolk City Council voted to posthumously rename a water treatment plant near ODU in her honor, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Lentz, who stayed connected to ODU throughout her long career, leaves a legacy of service and support.

"Kristen was a passionate advocate for our civil and environmental engineering program and a friend of the Batten College," Dean Ben Stuart said. "Her investment in our students will serve as an enduring legacy to the profession."

Lentz served on the advisory council of the College of Engineering and volunteered for many years on the Civil and Environmental Engineering Visiting Council (CEEVC).

"Kristen has been an asset and a contributor to our department," said Sherif Ishak, professor and civil and environmental engineering department chair. "She has inspired and mentored our students, and always volunteered to share her vast experience with the students in class every semester."

"Foremost, she served as a role model, mentoring students on proper professional conduct, and providing insights to women engineers on how to dress and interact within a male-dominated profession," Pezza added. "She showed them how to stand tall in a crowd of men by using grace and charm."

Lentz was instrumental in helping ODU students transition to professional engineers, particularly in local community.

"Over the years, she hired a number of ODU civil engineering graduates and started the intern program at Norfolk Utilities Department, where a number of civil engineering students were able to get their first professional experience while earning their degrees," said Gary Schafran, professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Lentz was also a passionate advocate of ODU outside of the College of Engineering and Technology.

"Although Kristen was not an avid sports fan throughout most of her life, in the last decade she loved attending all of ODU's home football and men's basketball games and was a truly devoted fan - she enthusiastically stood and performed the 'Ice Cream and Cake' dance at ODU games, much to the embarrassment of her daughter," her obituary stated.

A service was held celebrating Lentz's life at First Presbyterian Church on Jan.16.

Lentz is survived by her husband of 28 years, Monroe Lentz, and daughter, MaryLiz Lentz, a graduate student in ODU's speech and pathology program.

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