Obituary: Robert Laurence, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering

Robert Laurence
Robert Laurence

Robert L. Laurence, 81, of Waynesboro, Virginia, professor emeritus of chemical engineering and founding coach of the UMass Amherst rugby team, died Dec. 28.

Born in West Warwick, Rhode Island, on July 13, 1936, he was educated at Assumption High School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Rhode Island and Northwestern University.

He joined UMass Amherst as associate professor in chemical engineering and rose to professor focusing on polymer reaction technology and diffusion and transfer in polymers. He served as department head from 1983-89 and retired in 2001.

He held visiting professorships at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, the Universidad Nacional del Sur in Bahia Blanca Argentina, the Beijing Research Institute of Chemical Industry in China and the College de France in Paris.

His research was documented in more than 50 technical publications, and he contributed chapters to “Chemical Reactor Theory” and “Handbook of Reaction Engineering.” He was a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

He founded UMass Amherst rugby, a club sport, in 1968. He had played rugby for 17 years with MIT and other clubs before serving as coach, mentor and advisor on campus for 33 years.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Carol; his sister Dr. Louise Laurence and her husband Douglas Hamilton of Baltimore, Maryland; his brother Paul Laurence and his wife Jeanine of Fort Myers, Florida; his sons, Jonathan of Springfield and Andrew of Waynesboro, Virginia; and his daughter, Lisa and her husband, Dr. Brett Krasner of Charlottesville, Virginia.