In memory of Dr. Leslie Shemilt
21 December 2011

Dr. Leslie Webster Shemilt (FRSC OC) passed away on December 20, 2011, five days short of his 92nd birthday on Christmas Day. He will be remembered with great fondness, respect and admiration for the wide variety of his interests and achievements both professional and personal.

Les Shemilt served as the second Dean of the Faculty of Engineering from 1969 to 1979 during a time of rapid growth in Faculty programs. Prior to joining McMaster he was the founding chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of New Brunswick. He also played a prominent role in raising the stature of the Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering and was president of the Chemical Institute of Canada. He later served as Chair of the Technical Advisory Committee to Atomic Energy of Canada on the Nuclear Fuel Waste Management Program. He was honoured for his work as an Officer of the Order of Canada and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the Canadian Academy of Engineering. Amongst his hobbies Les was a keen follower of Sherlock Holmes and on the occasion of his 90th birthday party at McMaster he was elevated to the rank of Master Bootmaker by the Sherlock Holmes Society of Canada.


Carm Vespi, Manager, Alumni Relations posted a board on the second floor of the JHE Engineering Building in Memory of Dr. Shemilt - click here to see the board

Some examples of letters and remembrances regarding Les:


I was saddened to learn earlier today of the passing of Les Shemilt. On behalf of all of your engineering colleagues here at UBC, I extend my condolences to you and your colleagues at McMaster.

I am proud to say that I arrived as a PhD student in Chemical Engineering at Mac during Les' tenure as Dean. For a lowly student, Les was a shadowy figure who moved in much higher circles than I, except at those times when was labouring over CJChE in his first floor office of the Engineering Building. I remember him chiefly as the influential editor of CJChE and thus, he was a well-known ambassador for the program at McMaster.

Earlier today, I spoke with Peter Englezos, the Head of Chemical and Biological Engineering at UBC. Peter reminded me that Les is very fondly remembered here for his role as a founding father of our own Chemical Engineering Department. I am certain that Les would have been proud to see what has become of the idea that he promoted so energetically.

Best regards from Vancouver
Eric R. Hall Ph.D., P.Eng.
Faculty of Applied Science
The University of British Columbia

Dear Shiping

I shared your e-mail with my colleagues here at UBC and I apologize for inadvertently not copying you.

As you may see I added some more information that is relevant to Leslie's contributions to UBC. I also wanted to share with you the response I received from Emeritus Professor Colin Oloman. Best, -Peter

Please note that Leslie joined the Chemical Engineering Program at UBC in 1947. He developed the first undergraduate course in automatic control in any Canadian chemical engineering program. Together with Don Scott and Norman Epstein he led the effort to convince the University to establish the Department ofChemical Engineering in 1954 within the Faculty of Applied Science. Leslie served as Executive Officer for 1954 - 55, then as Acting Head until the first Head, J. S. Forsyth was appointed in 1957. Leslie and Stu Cavers were instrumental in securing the first Chemical Engineering building on Campus. The building was occupied in 1961 and served until 2006. Leslie resigned in December 1960 to go to the University of New Brunswick as the founding Chemical Engineering Department Head. In 1969 he joined MaMaster as Dean of Engineering. Leslie always retained a strong connection with the Department and in 2005 he wrote the history of the early years of our Department. You can read more on the Globe and Mail.

Re: Passing of Professor Leslie Shemilt

Thanks Peter.

Les was one of those people who helped to make Canada a great place to live and work.


Shiping Zhu wrote:

I visited Les and Beth a few times. We talked about many things and discussed some recent developments in the Department. He was really interested in getting to know our new people and donated a couple of history books. In every visit, I was amazed by his memory, logic and insight. He was just like an Encyclopedia of Canadian Chemical Engineering!

Les left a real legacy. He was hailed as a hero who made huge contributions in shaping up Canadian chemical engineering education, as Chairs in UNB and UBC and Dean at MAC. He helped so many of us as a role model. I am particularly indebted to him for his strong support and advices throughout the past two years.