The Michigan Engineer News Center

Pablo retires after 28 years in Chemical Engineering

Pablo LaValle retired from the University last spring after 28 years as senior engineer and undergraduate lab manager for the department. | Short Read
EnlargePablo and family
IMAGE:  Pablo with his family at his retirement in April 2015.

Pablo LaValle retired from the University last spring after 28 years as senior engineer and undergraduate lab manager for the department. Hired when Scott Fogler was chair, Pablo joined staff of the department in 1987. Pablo had received his BSE from the department in December of 1982.

Pablo kept the undergraduate laboratories running smoothly during his time with the department.  In the senior laboratory alone Pablo helped design and build the equipment for five new experiments and then added computer-based data acquisition and control to all of them.

He was also in charge of training the Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) prior to each semester, making sure that the GSIs knew the how to run each experiment. He also made rounds to the labs daily to see that everything was working properly, and to answer questions from the students and GSIs.

The department hosted a retirement party for LaValle in April, organized by his many ChE friends. His wife, Wendy, and his daughter, Liliana, and her boyfriend, Chris, were special guests at the April 29 event in the Lurie Engineering Center.  His daughter, Alicia, joined in on the celebration via Skype. (All in photo above.) The afternoon began with a program where staff and faculty celebrated the many contributions he made during his time in the department.


Dr. Susan Montgomery talked about Pablo’s ability “to work with so many different types of faculty with different personalities and priorities, while keeping foremost your responsibility to our ChE students.”  She also commented on his “calm demeanor and his ability to focus on what needed to be done.”

Emeritus Professor James Wilkes, who worked with Pablo on a major renovation and revitalization of ChE 360 laboratory soon after Pablo joined the department, said of LaValle, “We shall always remember you as being unfailingly cheerful, courteous, friendly, and knowledgeable. You will go down in our department history with great reverence and awe.”

Department chair Mark Burns, Johannes Schwank, Henry Wang, Rane Curl, and Sandy Swisher also spoke that afternoon.

The department presented him with several gifts including a scrapbook with many photos and notes of congratulations including comments from professors Erdogan Gulari and Ralph Yang, who both worked with Pablo in the undergraduate labs.

Gulari said that he always introduced Pablo to his 460 classes as “Pablo the Super Engineer, who has put in more effort into the 460 lab design than all the faculty teaching 460 combined.” He added, “It is because we have had Pablo that the 460 lab functions and is like a well-oiled machine. I know the labs before Pablo and after Pablo and there is absolutely no comparison.”

Ralph Yang thanked Pablo for “doing a first class job in building, maintaining and constantly improving the junior and senior labs, and doing so while continually accepting more jobs in the department, such as lab safety for research and teaching labs, building maintenance, and facilities coordinator.

Pablo was popular with the undergraduate students and they knew he would find an answer for any question they asked him.  They also sent thank you notes to Pablo to congratulate him on his retirement. A sample of student comments follow:

“I will always remember how resourceful, knowledgeable, courteous and patient you were—you are a class act and honorable professional.

Generations of Michigan engineers owe you thanks for your contributions to the quality of chemical engineering.

You are a big part of our U-M Chemical Engineering tradition and you will be missed by all of us.

The ChE program at Michigan will never be the same!  I remember you always being available for every lab class and helping us through the crazy times.”

Pablo has settled into retirement and is enjoying biking around Ann Arbor, helping his wife keep bees, and traveling the world.

Pablo and family
Portrait of Sandy Swisher


Sandy Swisher
Communications & Alumni Relations Coordinator

Chemical Engineering

(734) 764-7413

3118 Dow

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