Howard PETCH

Celebration of Life

3:00 pm
Sunday, December 16, 2018
University of Victoria’s Cadboro Commons
3800 Finnerty Road
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


Use parking lot 5 off Sinclair Road
Remembrance Diamonds
Living Reef Memorial

Obituary of Howard Earle PETCH

Petch, Howard Earle



May 12, 1925 – November 26, 2018


Howard Petch was born to Thomas Earle and Edith May (Painter) in Scarborough Township, York County, Ontario less than ten miles from the farms settled in the 1790s and 1830s by his German-American and British ancestors. His three siblings are still living: William James in British Columbia, Naureen Elizabeth Brodie and Donald John in Ontario. Howard died in Victoria, which he considered Canada’s most livable and beautiful city.


WWII ended six months after Howard completed his training as a navigator-air bomber in the RCAF. He used his veteran’s credits to attend the Veterans Session initiated by McMaster University in January 1946 and graduated in 1949 (BSc in Chemistry and Physics). Howard pursued graduate studies at McMaster (MSc 1950) and the University of British Columbia (PhD 1952). After postdoctoral research at McMaster and Cambridge University, where he held a Rutherford Memorial Fellowship, he joined the faculty at McMaster. In addition to his professorial appointments, he was Chair of the Department of Metallurgical Engineering (1957-1961), Director of Research (1961-1963) and Principal of Hamilton College (1963-1967) at McMaster. He moved to the University of Waterloo in 1967 where he served as Vice President Academic, Acting President and President (pro tem).


While a student at McMaster, Howard met, fell in love with and married the first of two remarkable women with each of whom he would spend many great years. Rosalind (Lindy) June Hulet, also a student and a RCAF veteran, and he married in the summer of 1949. Their first child, Stephen Howard (Sue Fraser) was born in 1952 in Vancouver and is now retired, after a career as a playwright, and lives in Vancouver. Patricia (Tricia) Louise Cook was born in 1954 in Hamilton and lives in Burlington where she raised three gifted children: Michael David (Vanessa Lamb), Jennifer Diane Edith van Hardenberg (Michael van Hardenberg) and Katherine Rosalind (Christine Taylor) are actively pursuing careers in Melbourne, San Francisco and Montreal, respectively. Sadly, their third child Suzanne died a few days after birth in 1959, and Rosalind died in January 1975, bringing great grief to all the family.


On January 1, 1975, Howard took on the duties of President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Victoria (UVic). While maintaining its reputation for excellent teaching, he proceeded to lead it on a program of growth and development, which laid the foundation for UVic to become, as it is today, one of Canada’s outstanding universities. He also played a wider provincial role by promoting greater access, particularly for rural young people, to postsecondary education, by advocating for science, engineering and high tech industry and in fostering working relations among the Province’s postsecondary institutions.


While attending a reception at UVic, he met a vivacious young woman, Linda Jean Schlechte, who was lecturing in the Faculty of Education. They married in 1976, and their son, Jeremy Earle, was born in Victoria in 1977. When he retired in1990, Howard took on major responsibility for running the household and raising Jeremy, so Linda could devote her time to developing her management consulting business. She was remarkably successful and had business clients as far east as Halifax and as far north as Inuvik. Now living in Toronto, Jeremy (Suzanne Turner) is involved in teaching, research and management in health and health policy and raising two very active children, Clara born in 2014 and Henry born in 2017.


Howard’s interests and contributions extended well beyond academe through service on countless committees, task forces, commissions and governing bodies from the municipal to the national level. He served on the Science Council of Canada, Defense Research Board, British Columbia Arts Council, Science and Technology Centre, Pickering Airport Commission, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, Asia Pacific Foundation, Victoria Foundation, Premier’s Summit on the Economy (BC), Senior’s Advisory Council of BC, and Business and Industrial Development Commission of Victoria. His service has been recognized through the award of numerous honors including Fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada, several honorary degrees (McMaster, Waterloo, UBC, Simon Fraser, and UVic), Centennial Medal, Confederation Commemorative Medal, Queen’s Jubilee Medal, Honorary Citizen of Victoria, and the Order of British Columbia.


His love for nature, especially bird watching and gardening, brought him serenity and great joy to the end.


A celebration of Howard’s life will be held on Sunday, December 16, at 3:00pm, at University of Victoria’s Cadboro Commons, 3800 Finnerty Rd, Victoria (use Parking Lot 5 off Sinclair Rd).


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