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It is with great sadness that we note the sudden passing last July 12, in Melbourne, Australia, of Professor Ralph Harris of McGill's Department of Mining and Materials Engineering.
Hailing from Brisbane, Ralph joined the Department in 1977 as a graduate student, eventually becoming a member of the academic staff in 1980 and rising to the rank of Full Professor in 2003. He taught his specialty, extractive metallurgy, to both undergraduate and graduate students in the Department as well as a course on report writing and oral presentation skills.
Christophe Pierre, Dean of Engineering, explained just how special he was to McGill: "Ralph's death is a tragic loss for the McGill Engineering community. He was such an energetic teacher and devoted, in every sense of the term, to his students and colleagues. During the almost three decades that Ralph spent at McGill he won the respect and the friendship of countless numbers of students, professors and acquaintances just about everywhere on campus."
His colleague and friend Dr. Edith Zorychta, Director of Graduate Studies, remembers a creative and committed teacher: "He was innovative in his thinking, and was sincerely committed to finding ways to improve teaching. He was known to constantly reflect on his own methods to determine how the student experience could be made better."
Ralph was a dynamic and intelligent researcher, with particular interests in extractive and process metallurgy. He had particularly close ties with industry, and over time forged a network of research colleagues that spanned the globe. He made important contributions to all aspects of university life, holding many positions with the McGill Association of University Teachers (MAUT), eventually serving as its President.
"His exceptional teaching ability, his commitment to research, his contacts with the wider community and his various roles through the years in the MAUT and in academic governance generally, won him plaudits, admiration and gratitude," recalled Dean Pierre. "Ralph will be greatly missed."
Sadly, Ralph Harris was about to take up a senior administrative appointment at RMIT University in Melbourne, when he passed away. Our condolences go out to his family, in particular his wife Debi and his two boys, Jordan and Philip.