Brenton “Brent” Shaw Halsey, namesake of the Brenton S. Halsey Distinguished Visiting Professorship in Chemical Engineering, died May 28, 2023, at age 96.

Halsey, who earned his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering in 1951, co-founded the James River Corporation, which grew to become one of the world’s largest manufacturers of paper before his retirement in 1990. He has had a profound impact on the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, especially the Department of Chemical Engineering, through the Halsey Professorship.

The professorship endowment was created to bring to Grounds industry leaders in chemical engineering and related fields whose broad practical experience can influence the education, scholarship and professional development of undergraduates in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The Halsey Professor has principal responsibility for a limited-enrollment, School-wide, senior-level course focusing on themes of human values and practices in technical business and industry. It is meant to complement current educational programs and personal growth experiences of engineering students.

Halsey Professors have come from the executive ranks of Dominion Energy, BP, Merck, the American Chemical Society and other prominent companies and organizations. All of them rose to the pinnacles of their professions, learning the complexities of modern technological leadership along the way.

“The Halsey course is unique for our students, to learn about engineering business and leadership from recognized leaders in our field, who are using their personal case studies,” said William S. Epling, the Alice M. and Guy A. Wilson Professor of Chemical Engineering and chair of the department. “It’s hard to measure the impact of this program, but we know it’s huge. Alumni of the class often comment on its impact on their careers. For that, we are so grateful for the gift and the person who started it all.”

Since 1995, 27 distinguished industry leaders have served in the position including the current Halsey Professor, Blair Okita, who has an extensive résumé in pharmaceutical manufacturing. Two former Halsey Professors, Michael L. King and Ronald J. “Ron” Unnerstall, subsequently joined the chemical engineering faculty and continue to have a positive influence on the educational experiences of all chemical engineering students and on the department’s culture of ethical responsibility, safety and collegiality.

Halsey is predeceased by his wife of 70 years, Lindsay Graham Halsey; son, Brenton S. Halsey Jr.; and brother, John S. Halsey. He is survived by three daughters and their spouses, Liza and John Perrin, Kate and Phil Edris, and Melanie and Guy Crittenden; and his daughter-in-law, Corell Halsey Moore and her husband, Thurston Moore; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A full obituary is available here.

Brent Halsey talking with students at a reception in his honor

In 2019 Brent Halsey, at UVA for an event in his honor, shared his some of his life experiences with students who were benefitting from the Brenton S. Halsey Distinguished Visiting Professorship program. The professorship brings industry leaders to Grounds to develop and teach a course focused on themes of human values and practices in technical business and industry gleaned from their personal stories.