Lou Edwards: A Lasting Legacy
“This department has a lot of rich history, at least it’s rich to me,” says Louis “Lou” Edwards as he gazes reminiscently at the conference-room wall that displays the black and white portraits of his former department chairs and colleagues.
Recruited in 1961 by Mel Jackson, the founding chair of the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Edwards launched his career at the University as an instructor and as one of the first doctoral students in the department’s burgeoning graduate program.
“He was polite, helpful, sympathetic, a hard task-master, and a broad-hearted individual ...true qualities of an ideal professor,” said Deba Prasad Ghosh, a professor in India who studied as a Ph.D. student under Edwards in 1969.
Edwards earned full professor in 1971 and continued to help build the graduate program as a mentor to many master’s and doctoral candidates.
“Recently, a man came running up to us downtown and said: ‘I was in your class! You worked the heck out of us, but you were really nice about it,” Doris recalls with a chuckle.
Edwards helped produce among the department’s most successful alumni. His former students include the president of a thriving process manufacturing software and consulting company, a military officer on a nuclear submarine, high- level executives at global technology companies, and many distinguished researchers and scholars worldwide.
A two-time recipient of the University of Idaho Award for Excellence in Scholarship, Edwards has made many noteworthy contributions to his field. He is an international authority in pulp and paper, authoring nearly 120 publications on the subject and serving as a consultant to more than 30 companies worldwide.
His research and expertise took him across the globe. In 1971, he completed a sabbatical in Sweden and returned repeatedly to the country with students for special research projects. In the 1980s and 1990s, Edwards spent his summers in Italy, where he helped develop a process for turning trash cardboard into new paper rolls.
In the 1970s, Edwards led the development of a computer software simulation program that became one of the first technologies of its kind in the pulp and paper industry. Today, companies around the world use versions of the program to model and design paper-making processes that are more efficient and environmentally friendly.
“When it came to technology, the paper industry was a little behind,” Edwards says. “The people in our department helped bring the industry into the 20th century.”
The College of Engineering has begun raising funds for a new endowed chair in honor of Edwards. Named the Lou Edwards Endowed Chair in Chemical Engineering, the fund will support the recruitment and retention of top faculty members who emulate Edwards’s excellence in leadership, teaching and research in the field.
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