Emeritus professor dies of illness at 101 years old
By Sophia Dipaolo
Published on Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Engineering professor emeritus Paul Etienne Queneau, a war veteran who held 36 U.S. patents in metallurgical and chemical engineering, died on March 31 at Kendal Retirement Community in Hanover after suffering from a case of the flu. Queneau was 101 years old.
Queneau joined the Thayer School of Engineering faculty in 1971 and partnered with his former company, International Nickel Company, to endow Thayer’s Paul E. and Joan H. Queneau Distinguished Professorship in Environmental Engineering Design.
Because of his experience in the corporate sector, he offered a link between academia and the “real world,” former Thayer Dean Charles Hutchinson said.
“Paul was an extremely confident and interesting addition to the faculty because he did not come to us in a traditional way,” Hutchinson said. “He had a complete corporate career before joining us and was around 60 when he came to Thayer.”
Queneau invented a number of groundbreaking industrial processes, with patents pertaining to the extraction of nickel, copper, cobalt and lead from ores and concentrates. He was a fellow and president of The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society and chairman of the Engineering Foundation. He received an Evans Fellowship from Columbia University and was awarded the university’s Egleston Medal, AIME’s Douglas Gold Medal, the Gold Medal of the British Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, Thayer’s Robert Fletcher Award and Chemical Engineering’s Kirkpatrick Award. He was also elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1981.
Queneau maintained a close relationship with his students, teaching a variety of courses at both introductory and upper levels, according to Hutchinson.
Paul Queneau, Queneau’s son, said that his father was extremely devoted to teaching at Dartmouth.
“He valued his time and his relationship with Dartmouth very much,” he said. “He taught many environment-related courses, as this was an area of great interest for him. He felt very strongly about protecting the environment and working with students as well.”
Queneau was born in 1911 and moved frequently as a child due to his father’s engineering career.
He attended Columbia University during the Great Depression, working as a waiter to help fund his education. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in mineral engineering, he began laboratory work at the International Nickel Company, an alloy plant in Huntington, W.Va.
Following various attempts to join the army, Queneau enlisted after the attack on Pearl Harbor when he appealed directly to the Pentagon.
He graduated from the Army Engineer School and was deployed to Europe with the Corps of Engineers. Queneau was awarded the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal and the Eastern Theater Offensive Ribbon with five battle stars. He returned to the Army Reserve as a lieutenant colonel in 1945.
Queneau’s son, Paul Queneau, spoke highly about his father’s legacy.
“He was very proud of his war experience,” Paul Queneau said. “When he began his service, he fought in Normandy, and because he was an engineer, was given the task of constructing many bridges across various rivers. In fact, when I was very young, I asked Dad, ‘What is an engineer?’ His reply: ‘An engineer builds wonderful bridges.’”
In 1949, Queneau explored, mapped and photographed the Perry River region of the Arctic in northern Ontario for the U.S. government. He traveled the region by 13-foot canoe, accompanied by artist and ornithologist Peter Scott and zoologist Harold Hanson. Among other duties, they studied the nesting grounds of the Ross’s goose, which scientists were concerned might be facing extinction. Scott wrote about the trip in his book “Wild Geese and Eskimos: A Journal of the Perry River Expedition of 1949,” which featured Queneau’s photographs.
Queneau worked at the International Nickel Company for 35 years, serving in various posts, including as vice president, technical assistant to the president and assistant to the chairman. During this time, Queneau and author Joseph Boldt wrote “The Winning of Nickel,” a renowned work on nickel recovery and processing.
“My father was very proud of his work at INCO,” Paul Queneau said. “His time there was particularly dear to him because his father, my grandfather, was an engineer who worked with industrial materials as well.”
After retiring from INCO, Queneau earned his doctorate at age 60 from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.
Queneau and his wife Joan bought a farm near Cornish, N.H., where they spent their free time building ponds, making maple syrup and raising cattle. Queneau was also an avid fly fisherman and a duck hunter.
Queneau is survived by his two children, as well as his brother Bernard Queneau, who will turn 100 in July.