Professor Garry Rempel is being remembered today for his many contributions to academia, Canadian industry and the field of chemical engineering, as well as his long and distinguished service to the University of Waterloo.
Professor Rempel passed away peacefully at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener on Friday, November 2, with his wife of 43 years, Professor Flora T.T. Ng, by his side. He was 74.
After receiving his BSc and PhD from the University of British Columbia, Garry pursued a NATO Postdoctoral Fellowship at Imperial College in London, England, before joining the University of Waterloo as an Assistant Professor in 1969. He rose to the rank of Professor in 1980, guided the Department of Chemical Engineering as Chair from 1988 to 1996, and received the prestigious title of University Professor in 2004.
Garry had long expressed his desire to pursue his love of teaching and research at the university for 50 years. This year, his 50th on campus, he was proud to be one of the University’s longest-serving faculty members.
During his tenure at the University of Waterloo, Garry’s expertise in applied catalysis, polymer science and chemical engineering became world-renowned. He was proud to work and collaborate with talented researchers from around the world. In the early 1980s he began his pioneering work on hydrogenation of nitrile rubbers, which he applied industrially in the following years.
By the late 1980s, he was patenting his technologies to produce high-performance elastomers via processes catalyzed by transition metal complexes. Over his career, Garry held 35 patents and had authored or co-authored more than 400 publications. His work on the chemical processes that produce high-performance rubber materials has influenced the products that many of us use every day.
Numerous honours over the years
Garry received numerous awards and recognitions for his academic achievements and contributions to science and engineering, culminating with his appointment as a Member of the Order of Canada in 2015 for his contributions to education, research and industry in Canada. He was also appointed a Fellow with the Royal Society of Canada (1992); Vice-President of the Royal Society of Canada (2001-2003); and President, Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada (2001-2003). He was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2013) for dedicating himself to the service of his fellow citizens, community and country through his research.
Garry was a mentor, teacher and friend to many students and colleagues in Canada and around the world. His love of knowledge was obvious and influential. Writing to prospective graduate students as Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering, Garry concluded his remarks with the following:
“Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas ... Virgil was not a chemical engineer but we share his view that knowledge and understanding are delightful. That is essentially what advanced learning is about and we hope we are doing our share.”
Garry most certainly did his share of discovering, learning and sharing his knowledge and encouraging others to follow his lead. He will be greatly missed.
Friends and relatives are invited to share their memories of Garry with his family during visitation at the Trillium Lutheran Church (John’s Lutheran & Elevation Church) at 22 Willow Street in Waterloo on Friday, November 9, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. The funeral service will be in the Church at 11:00 a.m. on November 9, 2018. A reception to celebrate Garry’s life will follow in the church hall.
In lieu of flowers, condolences for the family and donations to St. Mary’s General Hospital, Kitchener, or St. Michael’s Hospital may be arranged through the Erb & Good Family Funeral Home at www.erbgood.com or 519-745-8445.
Originally published in the Daily Bulletin on November 7, 2018