A tribute: 'Exceptional' engineer Dr. Jim Sharp remembered for scholarship, optimism and heart

Jun 23rd, 2022

Contributed by Glenn Sharp and Dr. Leonard Lye, professor emeritus, civil engineering and a long time colleague and personal friend of Dr. JJ Sharp

Dr. Jim Sharp with his arms folded smiles for the camera

Dr. James Jack (Jim or JJ) Sharp, professor emeritus, passed away peacefully and with grace in his beloved Scotland on June 6, 2022 in the presence of his eldest son, Glenn.

Dr. Sharp was a gentleman, scholar, musician and an exceptional engineer. Many former students and colleagues will remember him for his mentorship, collegiality, excellent teaching, supervision and administrative skills.

He provided significant service to the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and to Memorial University during his tenure, from 1970-2001. 

He was the first chair of civil engineering at Memorial, from 1972 to 1976 and 1983 to 1991. He became associate dean (graduate studies and research) in engineering from 1992 to 1998. In total, he held an administrative role for 19 of the 31 years he spent at Memorial University. This enabled him to have significant input into the development of programs in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. Dr. Sharp was very involved in, and proud of, moving the engineering program into a blended work term environment. 

Dr. Sharp’s scholarly activities were both broad and fascinating covering a range of engineering specialities, history and cooking. Two of his four engineering books have been translated into other languages.  He also published two history books: "Flower of Scotland" on the Scottish Monarchy and Discovery in the North Atlantic. Both books have received excellent reviews by professional historians.

Dr. Sharp’s primary research area was related to environmental hydraulics and his research expertise put him in demand as a lecturer in Canada and in other parts of the world. He gave lecture tours in China at the invitation of the Chinese Government and acted as a consultant to engineering consulting companies, both in Newfoundland and across Canada.

In 1981, he received the Camille Dagenais award from the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE) for his outstanding contributions to the field of hydrotechnical engineering in Canada and received awards from the American Society of Civil Engineers for the best technical note of 1992 and from ICE in 2001 for his paper “The Sarawak River Barrage – Hydrotechnical and Geotechnical Aspects”.  He also received a “Scientific Progress Award” from the National Environmental Protection Bureau of China.

Dr. Sharp’s professional work has been recognized by awards from the CSCE, including the James A Vance award, awarded to someone for their dedicated service which has furthered the advancement of the Canadian Society for civil engineering and the Award of Merit from the Newfoundland Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists, which is the highest honour of the Association and is given in recognition of having made an outstanding contribution to the engineering profession and to the community.

Dr. Sharp was an active individual with many other interests and lived a very full and happy life, and despite life’s ups and downs, he always chose to see the glass as half full.

Outside of work, his hobbies were many. He loved travelling, painting, Scottish country dancing, writing, history, fishing, jewelry making, playing the bagpipes and other instruments.  His most lasting impact was his ability to spread kindness and love to his family, friends and all of those he met.  He always had a sparkle in his eye, was quick to help others and will be very sorely missed.