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In Remembrance: Jean Le Mée

POSTED ON: June 29, 2020

Jean Le Mée in an undated photograph

Jean Le Mée in an undated photograph

Jean Le Mée, Professor of Mechanical Engineering Emeritus, passed away on June 28, 2020.

Professor Le Mée, who retired in 2003, held many roles in the Albert Nerken School of Engineering, including Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Director of Curriculum Development and Innovation, and Project Director of the Gateway Coalition, a ten-year collaborative program of seven colleges program headquartered at Drexel University that was supported by the National Science Foundation, at The Cooper Union. He also helped bring several engineering-focused exhibitions to the school as curator and organizer, including “Art and Mathematics 2000” and “A Better Mousetrap – Patents and the Process of Invention.” Following his retirement, he spent his time in continued research and occasional lecturing.

“Jean Le Mée was Mechanical Engineering departmental chair while I was a student. Under his leadership the department thrived in both emphasizing mechanical engineering fundamentals while exploring the cutting edge of where the discipline meshed with art,” remembers Brian Cusack ME’01 MME’03, Director of Campus Enterprise Applications and adjunct professor, Albert Nerken School of Engineering. “Without his insight and dedication, projects such as the robotic theater and rapid prototyping labs would not have been possible. He was always pushing both students and faculty to explore the future of engineering whilst not forgetting our roots. This vision was particularly important to me as a student and allowed me to engage in several interdisciplinary projects. I took advantage of many opportunities during my studies at Cooper that I later discovered were all made possible by Jean. His kindness, vision, and dedication will be missed.”   

“When I came to Cooper Union as an assistant professor in 1993, I didn't really understand what engineering was, but fortunately for me, I had Jean Le Mée to learn from,” adds Robert Q. Topper, professor of chemistry. “Obviously I was not his student, but I admired him greatly and learned much from him about engineering education and practice. I also remember how humble he was with regard to his own knowledge. He also shared my love of the history of science and encouraged me to learn more about the history of ideas and the people who develop them. I always think of him when I teach thermodynamics, and especially when I speak about his personal favorite, Sadi Carnot, the French engineer who established the foundations of entropy.”

Professor Le Mée is survived by his wife, Katharine Le Mée and their daughter, Hannah Le Mée O’Connor. Learn more about his career.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.