Robert Lionel Laurence
Robert Lionel Laurence
  • July 13, 1936 - December 28, 2017
  • Waynesboro, Virginia

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Robert L. Laurence, 81, of Waynesboro, died peacefully on Thursday, 28th December, 2017. He was born in West Warwick, R.I. in 1936, the elder son of Lionel G. Laurence and Gertrude Lefebvre. He was educated at Assumption High School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Rhode Island, and Northwestern University. In 1959, he married Carol Jolicoeur of Waterville, ME. Dr. Laurence was a professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Massachusetts for 33 years, serving as department head from 1981 to 1989. An eclectic researcher and dedicated teacher, with over 75 publications to his name, he lectured and spent time as a visiting professor and researcher in France, England, India, China, Japan, Argentina, Germany and Belgium. Bilingual, his French language skills stood him in good stead as he became a consultant for French firm Rhone-Poulenc, and later received a Docteur ès Sciences (honoris causa) from the Institut Nationale Polytechnique de Toulouse. After retirement from UMass, he went on to work as a Station Director for M.I.T.’s David H. Koch School of Chemical Engineering Practice, directing programs in England, Singapore and Germany.

His goal in teaching was to produce students who were better than he was. He claimed that this was accomplished. Many of his former students occupy faculty positions at U.S. and international universities.

He supplemented his professional activities with a lifetime dedication to Rugby Football, which began as an undergrad at MIT. At UMass, “Doc Laurence” was a fixture in the program for his entire time there and beyond, as player, coach, referee and administrator. He served the larger collegiate rugby community in many capacities. On his retirement, he was recruited as a coach for Colby College Rugby. Though the success of his players on the field was a point of pride for him, their overall success in life was of paramount importance to him, and he maintained lifelong relationships with them.

Aside from his passion for rugby, he was a true renaissance man of wide and varied interests including genealogy, history, science, travel, wine, gastronomy, literature and music, equally at home talking about medieval Occitan poetry or the stats of his beloved New York Yankees. He was a devoted loving husband, a gentle and supportive father and grandfather, a faithful friend, and a beloved mentor, teacher and coach.

Dr. Laurence is survived by his wife of 58 years, Carol, his sister Dr. Louise Laurence and her husband Douglas Hamilton,of Baltimore, MD, his brother Paul Laurence and his wife Jeanine of Fort Myers, FL, his sons, Jonathan of Springfield, MA, Andrew of Waynesboro, VA, his daughter Lisa and her husband Dr. Brett Krasner of Charlottesville, VA, grandsons Alexander, Nathaniel, James and Benjamin Krasner.

A Mass of Christian burial will be conducted 11:00am Thursday, January 4, 2018 at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, Charlottesville, VA.

The family will receive friends from 6:00 to 8:00 pm Wednesday, January 3, 2018 at Teague Funeral Home.

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