In Memoriam - Frederick Ross Hallett (1942-2010)

Posted on Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Written by Barbara Hallett


Professor Emeritus Ross Hallett
Ross Hallett as an undergraduate
Chemistry major at the
University of Alberta at Calgary.

At the time of this photo, Ross was an undergraduate chemistry major at the University of Alberta at Calgary. Ross was the only child of Roy and Kay Hallett and the first member of his family to attend university. Ross grew up in the small town of Nanton, Alberta in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. He realized that there were no opportunities for him in Nanton and that a university education was the key to a more fulfilling life. 

In January 1966, after completing a MSc with Frank Adam in Physical Chemistry, he set off for the Pennsylvania State University where he had been accepted into their program in Biophysics. Ernest Pollard had been recruited from Yale University to chair this new and diverse department. Ross joined the ESR laboratory under the supervision of Wallace Snipes. His PhD thesis research, "Reactions between singlet oxygen and biological molecules: their importance in photodynamic processes," was reported in Biophysical Journal, his first published paper. While graduate students at Penn State, Ross and Barbara, a student in the cell culture laboratory, were married., 

After receiving his PhD in 1969, Ross accepted a position as Assistant Professor in the Physics Department at the University of Guelph. Here, he changed his research focus to neutron and laser light scattering with some interesting biomedical applications, e.g. sizing particles of insulin suspensions for use in insulin pumps, determining motility of sperm for United Breeders, and preparing liposomes for drug delivery systems. Ross developed an introductory undergraduate course in biophysics based on study modules. He was the principal author of the textbook Physics for the Biological Sciences, first published in 1977 and now in its fourth edition, used in that course. In 1993, Ross was elected President of the Biophysical Society of Canada.

In his personal life, Ross was the father of two children, Andrew and Amy. A lively home life, enriched by their participation in the French Immersion Program and the Suzuki School of Music, complemented his academic career. Ross had a special relationship with his father-in-law, Larry, who taught this young homeowner basic household maintenance skills and shared his hobby of model railroading. 

Ross had a strong background in music. He completed the Royal Conservatory of Music program in piano, sang in the Glee Club at Calgary, and later, while at Penn State, sang in the State College Choral Society. He enjoyed playing piano duets with Barbara. 

Ross participated in a wide variety of sports. As a boy, he began golfing with his dad. At Calgary, he was a member of the curling club and played field hockey and soft ball. Growing up in the foothills, Ross had access to some of the best skiing slopes in Canada and became a skilled downhill skier. In Guelph, he played with the Badminton Club for many years. 

Ross became a member of the Guelph Power Squadron and taught courses in seamanship and navigation. He served a term as Commander. A highlight of his boating years was the cruise across Lake Ontario from Grimsby to Trenton followed by ten days navigating the Trent Canal System to Sparrow Lake for a Power Squadron rendezvous. 

In his free time, Ross was an avid reader and found history to be fascinating. He began by reading Gibbon's two volume work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and progressed through the intervening centuries to Winston Churchill's six volume epic, The Second World War. 

Ross was a dedicated teacher and researcher, but toward the end of his career, found contributing to administration at U of G to be very rewarding. He served as the academic colleague to COU for Presidents Brian Segal and Mordechai Rozanski. He assisted Vice-President Research Larry Milligan and, in this capacity, was instrumental in bringing the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario to campus. After retirement, Ross did some professional consulting and refereed manuscripts for journals. Then he was asked to assist in the CPES Dean's Office under Peter Tremaine and, later, under Anthony Vannelli. Here, Ross applied several decades of experience to secure funding and to facilitate partnerships between the corporate sector and government agencies for major projects in the college. At this point in his career, Ross had a lot to offer, both to the university and to young faculty and researchers. Many were grateful for his mentoring. 

During retirement, Ross and Barbara moved to a new home on an acre of former farmland in Puslinch Township. Here they established a sustainable native plant landscape to attract song birds and butterflies. Ross built several garden structures from cedar; he enjoyed watching as bluebirds or swallows inhabited his nesting boxes and raised their young. During the seven years Ross lived in Puslinch, he grew to love the township. He served on the COP Committee where his special interest was the restoration of the village of Aberfoyle, consistent with the historic character of the township. 

A most fulfilling life it was. 

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