Jennifer Fenton Weishaupt ChE’95

After retiring from the Shell Oil Company in 2015, Jennifer Fenton Weishaupt, a 1995 graduate in chemical engineering, decided to pursue a wholly new venture: she and her husband and fellow engineer, Erich Weishaupt, started a café in New Orleans called the Ruby Slipper in 2008 that has since grown into a network of restaurants in six states. Their story is one of business success rooted in their commitment to rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The Weishaupts had been active in community redevelopment and after so much trauma, they wanted to provide healing in the form of music, art, and food, and went on to found the free festival Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo in 2006, and to lead Mid-City’s Economic Development Committee. Ruby Slipper grew out of this desire to create space where the community could gather and celebrate after so much hardship. The plot of land the Weishaupts chose for their new restaurant was deemed blighted, but they transformed it into a local eatery that quickly grew in popularity.

Today, the Ruby Slipper Restaurant Group is successful beyond anything its founders imagined: with two brands (Ruby Slipper Café and Ruby Sunshine) and 27 restaurants. The couple gives back to their hometown by hosting fundraisers and non-profit events in their restaurants. In 2019 they created the Weishaupt Family Fund to continue supporting causes they cared about the most, and in 2020 responded to the COVID crisis by starting the Lagniappe Krewe Emergency Relief Fund to help hospitality workers hit hard by the pandemic. Weishaupt’s commitment to great food and community is what made her the recipient of the 2021 Peter Cooper Public Service Award given by the school’s alumni association.    

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.