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Leonel (Leo) Damien Durbin

Posted: Feb 26, 2018
November 13, 1935 - February 23, 2018

Leonel Damien Durbin passed away on February 23, 2018. Leo was born to parents Ottillia Kuntscher Durbin and Lewis Joseph Durbin in Riviera, Kleburg County, Texas. He was predeceased by six brothers. He is survived by his loving wife of 54 years, Mary Anne and three sons Andrew, Brian & wife Tara, Paul & wife Sandy. His four grandchildren are Robert, Alexandra, Kathleen and James. He is also survived by two brothers, Joseph Durbin, Vincent Durbin & wife Margaret Jane, and one sister Marie Frontera.

Leo attended Our Lady of Consolation parochial school in Vattman and graduated as Valedictorian of the class of 1953 from Riviera High School. In high school, he was in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and planned to major in agriculture at A&I College in Kingsville. However, due to the infamous 1950's drought, he told the registrar to "give him the hardest thing they've got" so he enrolled in Chemical Engineering. During that time, he worked as a service station attendant riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle daily between Riviera and college. He graduated three years later from A&I College in Kingsville Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. The local newspaper said he made the highest grades on record at A&I College at that time and graduated in three years.

He went on to receive his doctorate from Rice University and was the first PhD Chemical Engineering graduate when the name changed from Rice Institute. The title of his dissertation was Diffusion of Krypton-85 in dense gases. While in Houston, Mary Anne and Leo met at Fred Astaire Dance Studios and were married in 1963 at St. Anne Catholic church in Houston.

In 1961, he joined the faculty of Texas A&M University in the Department of Chemical Engineering. He taught undergraduate theory courses in process dynamics and control for 38 years beginning in 1961. During that time, he built and maintained a process control lab for undergraduate students in the department. This lab was an undertaking that started with pneumatic instruments, proceeding with electronics and finally PC-based control. He also supervised graduate students and authored and co-authored many papers in these areas. Asked why he later changed his focus to instrumentation & process control from that of his dissertation, he replied that the other was boring.

During his tenure at Texas A&M, he served as program chairman and chairman of the Texas A&M Instrumentation Symposium for the Process Industries. He also edited and co-edited "Proceedings" for the symposium, which serves as a library of educational and historical information for the field of instrumentation in the process industries. At the event in January of this year, he was recognized for the longest consecutive attendance which started for him in 1962.

He was a member of AIChE, ACS, Phi Lambda Upsilon, Tau Beta Pi, Alpha Chi, Sigma Xi, Sigma Tau. He was a life senior member of International Society of Automation (ISA), served as director of the ISA Automatic Control Systems (ACOS) Division. He served as ISA Vice President for the education department. In 2011, he received the prestigious Donald P. Eckman Education Award from ISA for his outstanding contributions to education and training in the science, engineering and technology of instrumentation, systems, and automation.

He enjoyed family vacations to the beach and with extended family at places like Riverbend Camp on the Frio River. Frequent longer vacations involved Mom and Dad with three boys in the backseat driving from Bryan to the east or west coasts and all the way north to Canada visiting all of the historical sites in-between.

Having grown up on a farm, Leo had a lifetime love of gardening and applied rigorous engineering discipline to it. As an educator, he encouraged and facilitated his son's various mechanized projects in the driveway. He always looked forward to visits by his grandchildren and keeping up with them. A lifetime devoted Catholic, he regularly attended mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

The family will receive friends from 3 - 6 PM, Sunday, February 25, 2018 at Memorial Funeral Chapel in Bryan, with the Rosary to begin at 4:00 PM. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 10:00 AM, Monday, February 26, 2018 at St. Joseph Catholic Church, with Rev. Msgr. John A. McCaffrey as Celebrant. Interment will follow at Mt. Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Bryan.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests with gratitude, that contributions be made to St. Joseph Catholic Church, 507 E 26th St, Bryan, TX 77803 or online at stjosephbcs.org and The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, 300 N Main St, Bryan, TX 77803 or online at svdp-bcs.org.