Leonel "Leo" Damien Durbin

November 13, 1935February 23, 2018
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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 Summa 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 Professional Societies. 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 sons' 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 and The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, 300 N Main St, Bryan, TX 77803 or online at


  • Visitation Sunday, February 25, 2018
  • Rosary Sunday, February 25, 2018
  • Mass of Christian Burial Monday, February 26, 2018

Leonel "Leo" Damien Durbin

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Arvid Johanson

March 8, 2018

Mary Anne and the Durbin Family. Our condolences to all. We will miss Leo and his lightening up the meetings. Eleanor very much loved visiting with Mary Anne in B/CS. Eleanor had written more but I think it got lost. She has been slowed by a fall in the kitchen before Thanksgiving.
Arvid and Eleanor

Lisa mahler

February 26, 2018

My thoughts and prayers are with you at this time.

John Baldwin

February 25, 2018

I owe much of my career to Dr. Durbin, who was my graduate advisor. During the '60's he had a reputation of demanding very high level efforts. On one exam to a class I took there were 5 questions worth 25 points each, e.g., a 125 point exam. The problem was that each question depended on the previous answer to proceed. But if a student could not get problem1, Dr. Durbin would give the answer but subtract an extra 10 points. Then if one could not get number 2, or 3, etc. etc. The result was that the grades ranged from -40 to about 50. His exams had quite a reputation! But he was a terrific graduate advisor, sometimes showing up at midnight to help his graduate students. Quite a man!

February 25, 2018

Mary Anne, Our sympathies to you and the family. If we lived closer, you know I would be there but am there in thoughts and prayers.
Love to all of you,
Jess and Carolyn

Doug White

February 25, 2018

Leo influenced several generations of leaders through his teaching and example. Condolences to Mary Anne and family.

Sr. Juliane Kuntscher

February 25, 2018

Condolences and prayers are offered for you and your family, Mary Anne. Leo was a fine man, one who was an example of faith, courage and determination. He touched the lives of so many. May he rest in peace.
Love from your cousins who, like Leo, "grew up" in Vattmann. God bless you.

John, Brandie, Breanna and Madison Soenning

February 23, 2018

May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.