By Chris Kelsey – The geosynthetics field has lost one of its earliest adopters and consistent champions, engineer André Rollin, M.Sc.A., Ph.D., FEIC, FCSME (1941 – 2017). André passed away on August 13 at the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Home after a lengthy battle with illness.
André Rollin, 1941 - 2017
André’s long and active career was characterized by a constant interest in growth—of the geosynthetics field, of technology transfer, of each individual’s knowledge as a way to expand the beneficial impact of our collective endeavors, whatever we direct ourselves towards.
He was a pioneer in geomembrane research and applications. He greatly helped advance interest in and understanding of electrical leak location for geosynthetic barrier systems. He pursued projects and standardization with PVC, HDPE, LLDPE, and other geomembrane formulations, never letting any particular material dictate the direction of his work; rather, he let project specifics (environment, budget, etc.) determine the best approach.
RELATED: PVC Geomembranes for Large Evaporation Ponds
Many of his insights into engineering with geomembranes were compiled in the text Geomembranes: a guide de choix, which he co-authored with Patrick Pierson and Stéphane Lambert.
Dr. Ian D. Peggs, P.E., P.Eng, whose career and contributions to geosynthetics (e.g., electrical leak location) have included numerous overlaps with André Rollin in research interest and field work, was, like so many of the field’s colleagues, saddened by news of the loss.
“With the passing of André Rollin,” Dr. Peggs wrote, “geosynthetics has lost one of its pioneers.  His research and standards development work were relentlessly pursued. He was a role model for others and will be sorely missed.”

Atacama Desert brine pond, photo by André Rollin
1 million m2 pond lined with PVC geomembrane and ready to be filled with brine. This massive installation took place in Chile’s Atacama Desert. Photo by André Rollin


His belief in bettering ourselves through hard work and sharing information were underscored in a 2004 interview conducted by Geosynthetica’s editor Chris Kelsey, who at the time worked on the magazine GFR. André noted:

[We need to] increase the mentorship in consulting firms and governmental agencies.  In my experience, senior engineers accept project management responsibilities or move to other firms; thus, leaving junior engineers to select liners for an application without the senior engineer having transmitted their geosynthetic knowledge or the importance of analysis and proper geomembrane selection for construction.  As a result, the geomembrane selection is too often associated to cut-and-pasting from past experience (which may be little).  This ignores the need to take into account the availability of many other types of products … that could offer the desired characteristics for safe and functional performance.  In short, more education is needed.  Engineers must share knowledge.

Also, on the technical side, research and development professionals must offer mentoring to the geosynthetic family members, and share educational efforts with them.

Perhaps the best example of this guidance was provided by André Rollin and co-author Hira Ahuja in their 1998 writings on “Maintaining Professional Competency.” Their closing words, which epitomize Rollin’s view of the beneficial impact we all can have, remain just as important today:

You owe it to yourself to maintain and enhance your competency in your field of expertise. …  Collectively, we can increase the public’s esteem for the engineering profession by keeping our knowledge and skills current. Happy lifelong learning.

Geosynthetica and the geosynthetics community extends our deepest condolences to André’s wife Pierrette McCaughan, his three children, and the rest of his family. He will be missed.


The family will receive condolences on August 24 from 2:00 to 5:00 pm and from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm:
Roussin Funeral Home
96 Boul. Perrot, Perrot Island
The funeral service for André Rollin will be held on 25 August 2017 at 11:00 am in Sainte-Jeanne-de-Chantal Church (Notre-Dame-de-l’Ile-Perrot, near Montreal).
The family asks that sympathies be expressed as donations to the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Home Foundation ( ).
Editor’s Note:
I first met André Rollin in 2002 on a trip to Canada when I was editing the publication Geotechnical Fabrics Report. For roughly the next decade, I saw him once or twice per year at events, and he was always gracious with his time. He took me aside at numerous functions to ask me how I was enjoying my work, was I getting support from engineers in the field, if there was anything he could answer. Frequently, he shared notes on research that was being conducted somewhere in the world, or a unique project, and why he thought I should keep an eye on it. I have been grateful throughout my editorial career for those interactions and his encouragement. I am also grateful for Dan Rohe of EPI for archiving the interview I did with André Rollin in 2004. – Chris Kelsey,


  1. Very sad to learn of Andre’s passing away. Always had only the highest respect for him. What a gentleman and a scholar!

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