Robert Lionel Laurence

July 13, 1936December 28, 2017
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Robert L. Laurence, 81, of Waynesboro, died peacefully on Thursday, 28th December, 2017. He was born in West Warwick, R.I. in 1936, the elder son of Lionel G. Laurence and Gertrude Lefebvre. He was educated at Assumption High School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Rhode Island, and Northwestern University. In 1959, he married Carol Jolicoeur of Waterville, ME. Dr. Laurence was a professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Massachusetts for 33 years, serving as department head from 1981 to 1989. An eclectic researcher and dedicated teacher, with over 75 publications to his name, he lectured and spent time as a visiting professor and researcher in France, England, India, China, Japan, Argentina, Germany and Belgium. Bilingual, his French language skills stood him in good stead as he became a consultant for French firm Rhone-Poulenc, and later received a Docteur ès Sciences (honoris causa) from the Institut Nationale Polytechnique de Toulouse. After retirement from UMass, he went on to work as a Station Director for M.I.T.’s David H. Koch School of Chemical Engineering Practice, directing programs in England, Singapore and Germany.

His goal in teaching was to produce students who were better than he was. He claimed that this was accomplished. Many of his former students occupy faculty positions at U.S. and international universities.

He supplemented his professional activities with a lifetime dedication to Rugby Football, which began as an undergrad at MIT. At UMass, “Doc Laurence” was a fixture in the program for his entire time there and beyond, as player, coach, referee and administrator. He served the larger collegiate rugby community in many capacities. On his retirement, he was recruited as a coach for Colby College Rugby. Though the success of his players on the field was a point of pride for him, their overall success in life was of paramount importance to him, and he maintained lifelong relationships with them.

Aside from his passion for rugby, he was a true renaissance man of wide and varied interests including genealogy, history, science, travel, wine, gastronomy, literature and music, equally at home talking about medieval Occitan poetry or the stats of his beloved New York Yankees. He was a devoted loving husband, a gentle and supportive father and grandfather, a faithful friend, and a beloved mentor, teacher and coach.

Dr. Laurence is survived by his wife of 58 years, Carol, his sister Dr. Louise Laurence and her husband Douglas Hamilton, of Baltimore, MD, his brother Paul Laurence and his wife Jeanine of Fort Myers, FL, his sons, Jonathan of Springfield, MA, Andrew of Waynesboro, VA, his daughter Lisa and her husband Dr. Brett Krasner of Charlottesville, VA, grandsons Alexander, Nathaniel, James and Benjamin Krasner.

A Mass of Christian burial will be conducted 11:00am Thursday, January 4, 2018 at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, Charlottesville, VA.

The family will receive friends from 6:00 to 8:00 pm Wednesday, January 3, 2018 at Teague Funeral Home.


  • Visitation

    Wednesday, January 3, 2018

  • Mass of Christian Burial

    Thursday, January 4, 2018


Robert Lionel Laurence

have a memory or condolence to add?

Mike Domach

April 17, 2018

I just learned of this and wish to express my sympathy to Doc's family and friends. I was a former UMASS student and later in life we enjoyed some spirited conversation when we ran into each other while on official busines. In fact, my department head had once asked me why I was having such a good time in a photo that appeared in a major company's annual report to stockholders. The photo was up to then unknowingly taken of me and Bob at a reception where we were locked down in the corner of the room talking half in French and half in English as I shared some W MA and ME history and information on local figures. Mike Domach UMASS 78, Cornell 83, Prof Carnegie Mellon//Sixteen Acres MA and Weld ME.

Susan & Arthur Stern

January 8, 2018

We were so sorry to hear of Bob's passing. As neighbors so many years ago an enduring memory I have of Bob, as observed through my dining room window, is of him rushing out of the house in his rugby coach uniform. An activity he obviously enjoyed.
Our prayers and thoughts are with you and your family at this very sad time.

Gilbert Sabat

January 8, 2018

God rest his soul. I was fortunate to take his class and be in his department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Enjoyed my time tremendously


January 6, 2018

Bob, "Doc",
Was a Teacher, Mentor, Coach,Scientist/Engineer. His contribution to each of these interactions was PROFOUND!
In all areas these Bob was a leader/pioneer.
The extensive impact of his guidance and coaching influenced thousands of students, players and colleagues and was truly unique!

Chris Walsh

January 5, 2018

Dear Laurence Family,
Doc was an instrumental force in my rugby education, taking great pains to make sure that I understood the commitments needed to excel in the sport. I listened to very few words of his advice but grew to love the sport. Playing in college and as an "adult" I valued the kindness shown and enthusiasm in which it was offered. I have passed that legacy to my sons & my UMASS freshman daughter - who may/may not begin playing in the Spring. I made a platelet donation in Doc's honor last Saturday and will hope that the funeral facility will pass this small token of my appreciation on to you as a thank you for the generosity of spirit that Doc provided many a young man in Amherst. Cheers to Doc! A good man.
Chris Walsh - UMASS RFC 82-86

Mike Kroll

January 4, 2018

Jonathan and Lisa, very sorry to see you lose your Dad. Mrs Laurence I am sorry for the loss of your husband. I was over your house once as a teenager and was treated as family. Even got to go to UMass to play Rugby for the first and only time. A few of his special qualities I remember like leadership, enthusiasm, and kindness. Only spent time with him on a couple of occasions but he left a lasting impression.

Jane Leighton

January 4, 2018

Dear Carol and family,I was very sad to read of your loss.I never met Bob but I felt like I knew him. Perhaps you remember writing me a lovely note when my husband died.

Having family and friends who care for us helps so much. I was glad to hear that Terry and your cousins were able to come and be with you.Please know that I am thinking of you all and extend my sympathy. With love, Jane Leighton

January 3, 2018

Sending you sincere sympathy on your loss of Bob.

Jack and Estelle Doherty

Robert Holton

January 1, 2018

We spent our last semester at MIT in the Practice School Program. I saw at that time his skill as a researcher, teacher and most of all a good friend. He always gave 110% in every activity he participated in. He had a life well lived!!

Tim Kickham

January 1, 2018

I was member of the University of Massachusetts Rugby team from 1981-1984 with Doc Laurence as the coach. I learned a lot from Doc Laurence not only regarding his coaching skills for the Rugby team but also his professional and personal demeanor that is a positive attribute attribute anyone should look to emulate. Thank you Doc Laurence for being a great coach in more than just the game of rugby.