Ignatius Desmond Imbert (20th Apr 1931-18th May 2010)

Trinidad and Tobago Icons Vol 2

Desmond Imbert, Emeritus Professor of The University of the West Indies (UWI), lectured in civil engineering at UWI, St. Augustine for over 30 years, training hundreds of undergraduate and postgraduate engineers. He is an international authority on concrete technology, having presented numerous papers at foreign and local conferences and formulated concrete mixes for diverse applications and conditions.

Ignatius Desmond Charles Imbert was born on 20th April, 1931 in St. Lucia. During his childhood, he moved first to Dominica in 1937 and then Montserrat in 1942. He attended the Montserrat Secondary School and won the Leeward Islands’ Scholarship in 1948. Imbert was an avid sportsman as well as a brilliant student. He was captain of the Montserrat Secondary School football team and vice captain of its cricket team. He also played cricket in Antigua against noted cricketer, Lester Bird.

The family then moved to Trinidad and Imbert spent one year as an Assistant Teacher at Fatima College before proceeding to university. He studied civil engineering at the National University of Ireland where he obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in this field. His master’s project was a paper on West Indian housing construction.

Imbert went on to serve Antigua and Barbuda as a government engineer, and then worked in Barbados at the Public Works Department as the Director. In 1964, he joined the new Department of Civil Engineering at UWI, St. Augustine, as a lecturer. After a brief stay, he entered Trinity College, Dublin University in Ireland, where his study of stress patterns in concrete slabs earned him a doctorate in 1966. That same year, Imbert returned to UWI’s Department of Civil Engineering.

He was appointed Dean in 1974, Professor of Civil Engineering in 1976, and served as Dean until 1983. In 1987, he established postgraduate training programmes in Construction Technology at St. Augustine and directed these programmes for nine years. He also managed the construction of the new UWI Faculty of Engineering building at St. Augustine from 1988 to 1993.

Professor Imbert was a visiting Professor of Construction at the Florida International University from 1989 to 1992 and an acknowledged expert on the effects of hurricanes and on hurricane-resistant structures. As a professional long associated with the National Hurricane Centre in Miami, he was an expert witness in assessing damage caused by Hurricane Andrew in Homestead, Miami in 1992.

He made significant contributions to applied research and innovation, investigating the use of St. Lucian pumice as aggregate material, and developing several concrete mixes for use in marine construction. He also worked with Trinidad Clay Products Ltd, now the leading edge company, Alstons Building Enterprises Ltd (ABEL), as a specialist designer of innovative floor systems.

Professor Imbert is a member of the Institution of Engineers of Ireland and the American Society of Civil Engineers. He was made a Fellow of the Association of Professional Engineers in Trinidad and Tobago (APETT) in 1978 and served as its President from 1977 to 1978. He was also an advisor to the Caribbean Development Bank for 10 years.

Outside of academia, he is known for his love of “ole talk” and his propensity to enter into animated discussion on every subject.

He was made a recipient of the Chaconia Silver medal in 2008, and passed away in 2010 at the age of 79.