Remembering Clarence Capjack

Clarence Capjack was a pioneering researcher, dedicated educator, and a trusted mentor

Richard Cairney - 20 May 2020

Clarence Capjack, a well-loved and highly respected Engineering at Alberta professor emeritus, has died.

A member of the faculty for 36 years, Clarence was a dedicated educator and a pioneering, tireless electrical engineering researcher. Clarence was part of a sharp group of Engineering at Alberta researchers whose leading-edge work, starting in the early 1970s, earned an international reputation and helped move lasers out of research laboratories and into industry and medicine. He was still publishing research—into biomedical optics—well into the 2000s.

An expert on computer modeling of plasma, he made significant contributions to the science of plasma, gas discharges, and light-matter interactions, according to Associate Dean of Research Ying Tsui, one of Clarence’s collaborators. Tsui says Clarence’s research led to the development of important applications in the electrical heating of oil sands, high-power gas lasers, laser fusion, and attosecond techniques.

“Clarence was an outstanding, internationally recognized plasma researcher but he was low key and humble,” said Tsui. “He was an outstanding mentor, a source of encouragement and a role model for many. Most importantly, Clarence was a wonderful human being who had a kind and caring heart.”

Beyond his research and service to students in classrooms and labs, Clarence was a faculty leader and accomplished administrator. He held appointments as associate dean, and served two terms as chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, starting in 1992.

“Clarence was chair when I joined this department,” said Ivan Fair, who now holds the position. “In all the years I knew him, I had the good fortune of calling upon him as a mentor and role model. He was one of the first individuals I reached out to for advice when I assumed my current role; I continued to treasure his thoughtful, wise, time-invariant advice.”

Clarence earned his degree in electrical engineering at the University of Alberta in 1962, and followed that with his master’s degree in 1965, and his PhD in 1968. The university and his life were closely entwined. He and his wife Linda—who is a Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences—are held in high regard at the university and in their respective fields.

Off campus, Clarence was active as a cyclist, hiker, golfer, and skier; he enjoyed building and flying radio-controlled airplanes, and was creative and accomplished at woodwork. He was devoted to his family, including four grandchildren. 

Clarence was born October 3, 1939 in Elk Point, Alberta. He died of pancreatic cancer May 14, 2020, at the age of 80. He is survived by his wife of 56 years Linda (Macaulay); his daughters Lisa Ludwig (Jamie) and Gina Capjack (Jody Remezoff); his grandchildren Aidan and Madelynn Ludwig, and Emma and Evan Remezoff; brothers Orest and Lawrence Capjack; and sister Arlene Burton.

Following Clarence’s wishes, his family will celebrate his life in private.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Pancreatic Cancer Research Foundation.