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Tribute to William H. Gauvin, FCIC.

If an end-of-century poll had been taken for the outstanding Canadian chemical engineer of the 20th century, William H. Gauvin, FCIC, would have been a clear choice. Gauvin was an exceptional educator, researcher, inventor, industrialist, and a mainstay of professional societies. Among the latter, he was a CSChE founder and early president. Award-winner extraordinaire, Gauvin claimed several honorary degrees and the Order of Canada. Although he died in 1994, he left a legacy that is strong ten years later. A big part of that legacy is his 51 graduate students along with many colleagues, all beneficiaries of the example he set.

Thirty-nine members of that human legacy met September 17-19, in Montreal, to honour their old mentor. Included were many of Gauvin's graduate students, other students who knew and admired him, their spouses, colleagues from McGill University, Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada, and Noranda Research Centre. Attendees came from Vancouver to P.E.I., from Chicago to Houston, and from New York. After an informal dinner Friday, the program moved into a full technical day on Saturday at McGill University chemical engineering's Wong Building, and culminated over dinner at Le Caveau restaurant. Some remained for Sunday brunch.

The Saturday morning program featured Gauvin's last great interest: plasma technology. Richard Munz, MCIC (1974 Gauvin graduate), and Maher Boulos, FCIC (1973 Gauvin postdoctoral fellow now at the Universite de Sherbrooke)--both leaders in their fields--traced the evolution from Gauvin's 1961 inauguration of plasma research to their current work and on to projects for the future. Their presentations were book-ended by George Kubanek, FCIC (1966), Gauvin's first student on plasmas, and Paul Stuart, MCIC (1992), his last. All spoke of the great influence their supervisor had on their careers. Attendees then toured the plasma research facilities, among other chemical engineering labs.

The broad scope of Gauvin's contributions emerged in the afternoon session. Terry Hoffman, FCIC Ca 1959 Gauvin grad), and Hugh Barclay (a Pulp and Paper Research Institute colleague of Gauvin's), gave a paper (co-authored with Ken Pinder, FCIC, of the University of British Columbia (UBC), Steve Prahacs, and Jean Gravel, MCIC) presenting the first complete history of Gauvin's patented atomized suspension technique. This invention, developed during Gauvin's 1951-1961 period with Paprican, combined two career-long thrusts--small particles and high temperatures. A paper by Fred Stevens and Ron Crotogino, MCIC, also of Paprican, described how Gauvin established university-industry collaboration, previously non-existent. Murray Douglas, FCIC, a close colleague of Gauvin, presented a short but comprehensive history of chemical engineering at McGill from its beginning in 1908, highlighting the early and sustained contributions of Gauvin and long-time chair J. B. Phillips.

Gauvin became founding director of the Noranda Research Centre in 1961. Gauvin hired grads Nick Themelis, FCIC (1961), now at Colombia University, and George Kubanek, FCIC, at Noranda. Both grads outlined how he built a world-class industrial R&D lab from the ground up and successfully applied transport process principles to metallurgical problems. For turbulent fibre suspension flows, a phenomenon central to papermaking, Dick Kerekes of UBC described the evolution of 50 years of research and industrial application from the visionary work of Gauvin in the 1950s and 1960s. Kerekes showed the family tree of 24 McGill and UBC theses emanating from the work of Gauvin's first students. A paper by Leonard Torobin (1960), CEO of Nanofiber Technology Inc., NC, attributed the success of his earlier work in the nuclear power industry to a philosophy and attitude adopted from Gauvin.

Gauvin's first graduate student completed his studies in 1950, his last student in 1992. He was the sole supervisor of these 29 PhD-25 MEng theses, and most were done while Gauvin worked full-time first at Paprican and then Noranda. One of the earliest students, Lorne Phillips (1952), recalled exciting days in the lab and Gauvin's impeccable attire and great undergraduate classroom presence. Gauvin's undergrad classmate, John Blanchard (1941), described him as a leader and a helper of fellow students. Andrew Spears (BEng 49) recalled Gauvin "the young professor."

The weekend was honoured by the presence of Gauvin's widow, Dorothy, and two of his stepsons, Ian and Robin Turner. The sons recalled his warmth and his persistence in the face of obstacles. At dinner, Dorothy Gauvin thanked the group for the affection expressed for her late husband.

The entire event was a revelation to all, each having known only part of the Gauvin stow. He clearly continues to inspire. The event organizers--Gauvin students Andrew Bobkowicz, MCIC, Keith Marchildon, FCIC, Richard Munz, Paul Stuart, McGill colleague Murray Douglas, Noranda colleague Michael Avedesian, FCIC, with McGill's Robyn Ouimet--considered themselves richly rewarded for their efforts. A fund created for a new student award as a permanent legacy to the honour and memory of Gauvin was announced by Murray Douglas. Those interested in contributing may contact Murray.Douglas@mcgill.ca or Robyn. Ouimet@mcgill.ca at 514-398-7138. A permanent record of the event--The Life and Legacy of W. H. Gauvin, Ten Years After--commemorates the occasion with biographies, reminiscences, the technical papers, historical items, and contact information for all.
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Title Annotation:CSCHE Bulletin SCGCH; chemical engineer
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:840
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