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Obituary
Paul Plouffe

16 January 2008

Paul Plouffe, a longtime lecturer for chemical engineering's undergraduate writing program, has died. He was 68.


Plouffe, who had undergone heart-bypass surgery several years ago, was in Los Angeles visiting former classmates from the University of Southern California's film school. He died in his sleep early in the morning of Nov. 11, from a major heart attack.

Says chemical engineering chair Jeff Reimer, "For 24 years Paul Plouffe has been the soul of our undergraduate program, leading each and every student through ChemE 185. His warm and gentle personality graced Gilman Hall, and I know I speak for us all when I say that we are in deep grief."

Plouffe was a multi-talented intellect who earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Boston College in classics and philosophy, and a Certificat d'Études Supérieures from the University of Paris. He later studied film production at USC before earning his Ph.D. in comparative literature and film at Berkeley in 1979.

With co-author and fellow Berkeley lecturer John Hatton, Plouffe wrote two books, The Culture of Science: Essays and Issues for Writers and Science and its Ways of Knowing, both in the 1990s. He taught various film and literature courses throughout the Bay Area and had written three screenplays. He could read Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, and Italian, and he could speak French and a little Italian.

In 1983, Plouffe began teaching ChemE 185, Technical Communication for Chemical Engineers. He continued to be the instructor for the course until his death. Because the class was required for all chemical-engineering undergrads, Plouffe came to know every undergraduate in the department for nearly two-and-a-half decades.

His knowledge of and affection for his students made him a resource for identifying worthy scholarship recipients and for many other departmental activities. Always a favorite of the students, Plouffe won the Department of Chemical Engineering Teaching Award in 1999 and was designated the "Most Appreciated Faulty Member" by the Berkeley student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) in 1994, 1996, 1999, and 2000.

"Paul was an extraordinary presence for our students," says Reimer. "He was peerless."

Plouffe is survived by his brothers, Jim Plouffe of Wilmington, Del., and Bill Plouffe of South Freeport, Maine, and by eight nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at the Faculty Club on Sunday, Jan. 27, at 3 p.m.

- Michael Barnes, College of Chemistry