Photo: A/P Kevin Free, 31/1/1932 – 23/5/2021
Kevin Free was an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering from 1986 until 2000 when he retired at the age of 68.
After completing his undergraduate studies in Chemical Engineering at the then Canterbury College, a constituent college of the University of New Zealand, he continued on to pursue an ME for which he carried out a rigorous analysis of the solar salt ponds at Lake Grassmere, near Blenheim. This research was later published as a single-authored paper “The production of solar salt” in TransIChemE, 36A, 115-122, 1958. This paper won Kevin the prestigious IChemE Junior Moulton Medal for 1958. Kevin also completed an MSc with First Class Honours in Mathematics in 1956 at the Auckland University College, another constituent college of the University of New Zealand. He then won a Defence Scientific Corps scholarship (established at the time by Dr Ernest Marsden) to do a PhD in Chemical Engineering at Cambridge University. There is a record in the New Zealand Gazette of 3 Feb 1966 that Kevin retired as a Flight Lieutenant, effective 1 January 1966.
Kevin then returned to New Zealand to work for the DSIR (Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, which later became the Crown Research Institutes) in Wellington before going to the USA where he held a variety of posts, including an academic position at Case Western University, before joining Dupont. Ultimately he was transferred to their Head Office in Wilmington, Delaware. Dupont strongly encouraged their staff to take up community involvement and Kevin successfully stood for the Delaware Legislature. He served three terms as a Member of the House of Representative in the Delaware General Assembly. Among the initiatives Kevin is specially remembered for during his terms of office was a programme to encourage young people to read a book a day as part of his involvement in the area of education in the State of Delaware.
When Kevin first joined the C&M Department, he taught a number of courses including the Second Professional year course “Process Analysis and Synthesis” (equivalent to today’s third year design). Kevin taught the course from first principle, using degrees of freedom analysis to tackle complex processes. He also set weekly exercises for the students which had to be turned in and Kevin would critique each of the students’ work. Not all students liked that approach, but it did provide a very solid grounding for the students.
Kevin also collaborated with various staff members on research, but particularly productively with Professor Dong Chen in the area of heat transfer, milk processing and food process engineering. Kevin also strongly encouraged students to pursue a PhD at various top schools in the UK and US.
Kevin is survived by Bobbe, his wife of over 65 years, and was the proud and loved father and father-in-law of Peter and Debbie, Natalie, Martin and Laureen, Jonathan and Judith, Derek and Heather, grandfather of 10, and great grandfather of 5.