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May-June 2013

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In Memoriam: André E. Lalonde (1955–2012)

To the surprise and deep regret of the mineralogical community, both professional and amateur, Dr. André E. Lalonde, professor of mineralogy at the University of Ottawa, succumbed to cancer on 21 December 2012.

André was born in Ottawa, Ontario, to Gaëtan and Georgette Lalonde, but he was raised just across the river in Gatineau, Quebec, on the edge of the Precambrian Laurentian Mountain Range, part of the Grenville orogeny. Just how much that influenced him is unclear, but in their shadow he developed his three great interests: mineralogy, astronomy, and motorcycles.

Mineralogy, of course, was his professional interest. He graduated from the University of Ottawa in 1978 with a degree in geology. Subsequently, he began his MSc at McGill University in Montreal under the guidance of Prof. Robert F. Martin. His thesis was on the feldspar and ferromagnesian minerals of the Cambrian Baie-des-Moutons syenite in eastern Quebec. In 1981 and still at McGill with Martin as advisor, he continued on to his PhD, for which, with the support of the Geological Survey of Canada, he studied the igneous petrology, mineralogy, and geochemistry of the Hepburn and Bishop intrusive suites of the central Wopmay Orogen in Canada's Northwest Territories. His PhD thesis involved three consecutive field seasons in Canada's far North, which he had grown to love during his days on Somerset Island in 1974.

The far North was not his only point of focus, however. In 1980, while doing fieldwork along the Labrador coast, he met his future wife, Lesia Zalusky, a fellow geologist from Concordia University in Montreal. They married in 1981 and raised three children.

In 1985, André returned to the University of Ottawa, this time as a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences. In that milieu, his native talents flourished, and in short order he built himself a formidable reputation as a researcher in mineralogy and a superb teacher. He could take the most complex and difficult subject, dissect it into easily assimilated segments, and lay it in front of students in a way that left them full of admiration—and understanding.

In 2006, André was named Dean of Science, a position he held for five years. During that time he hired thirty additional professors and was involved in the establishment of fourteen research chairs. His personal research interests lay in the rock-forming minerals, particularly the mica, astrophyllite, and kaolinite groups (phyllosilicates).

As dean, he oversaw all aspects of science and was instrumental in the development of a new Advanced Research Centre (ARC). The university has declared that the principal laboratory of the ARC will be named the André E. Lalonde Laboratory in his honor. It will house the only accelerator mass spectrometer in Canada. Another of his major accomplishments was the creation of an up-to-date facility for teaching the use of the petrographic microscope. He saw to it that the room was outfitted with top-quality student microscopes, and he had his own connected to a ceiling-mounted projector that could show everyone a wide-screen shot of what he was seeing at any given time.

Professional competence brings respect from one's peers, but add to that generosity of spirit, and one gets respect from everyone. André had a lot of generosity of spirit. When invited, and the pressures of work allowed, he would come to meetings of amateur collectors and regale them with the intricacies of Miller indices or crystal symmetry—all in clear, simple style. He would bring his huge petrographic microscope and revel again in the wonders that it revealed. I have seen him take half an hour at a meeting of the Canadian Micro Mineral Association and patiently lead a young mineral collector in a one-on-one session through the determination of the refractive index of a mineral with the petrographic microscope. André never talked down to anyone. To him, an amateur at a local meeting was as much a colleague as a professor in the laboratory next door. He spoke at many amateur meetings, often driving more than 600 kilometers to do so, and never accepted an honorarium for his time or expertise.

If he felt that his microscope was not needed, he would forego his car and come on the third of his passions, his motorcycle. It is fitting that he spent the weekend before his diagnosis with the cancer that was to take him so quickly, on his beloved motorcycle, roaming through Vermont.

Recognition by his peers did not end with the naming of a laboratory after him. The mineral lalondeite, (Na,Ca)6(Ca,Na)3Si16O38(F,OH)2·3H2O, was named in his honor in 2008 by Prof. Andrew McDonald of Laurentian University, himself a former student co-supervised by André for his PhD. The André E. Lalonde Fund was generated on his retirement as dean to restore a prominent mural at the university, and André was also recognized by his election to the vice presidency of the Mineralogical Association of Canada—a position he resigned when the nature of his cancer became apparent.

Such recognition is lasting and worthy, but perhaps the greatest recognition, though transitory, came a few days after his death. So many people—hundreds—came to his memorial service that the venue could not hold them all. The crowd filled the chamber and overflowed into the hallways. There were family and friends; there were former and current colleagues, professional and amateur; there were those who had come many kilometers from other universities; but above all, there were his students—students who stood quietly by the walls and wept at his loss. That was real recognition!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I am indebted to Lesia Zalusky and Profs. Andrew McDonald and Ian D. Clark for help in preparing this tribute. The information is theirs, but the writing is mine, and if there are errors or omissions, they are mine also.

Quintin Wight is the author of The Complete Book of Micromounting (Mineralogical Record, 1993).

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