School 21

Leslie Erwin Lahti

July 27, 1932 ~ August 17, 2019 (age 87)


Dr. Leslie E. Lahti, former Dean of Engineering and professor/chair of Chemical Engineering at the University of Toledo died Saturday, August 17th, 2019.    He was 87. 

Les was Dean of Engineering from 1980 to 1988 and served as Professor and Chairman of the Chemical Engineering department from 1967 to 1980.  He continued to teach and advise students until his final retirement in 1995. 

Les received his BS in Chemical Engineering from Tri-State (now Trine University) in 1954, his MSChE from Michigan State in 1958, and his PhD from Carnegie Mellon University in 1964.  Following that, he became an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Purdue University.  In 1967, Toledo became a State University and they announced they were developing a graduate program in Engineering.  That served as a catalyst for Les to relocate his family to Toledo.

Les had multiple refereed publications, many in the area of nucleation kinetics of urea crystallization.   He was a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers where he served on both local and national committees, and the American Society for Engineering Education.  Les served as Vice Chair of the Area Council for Technology of the Technical Society of Toledo from 1984-86.  He served on the Board of Directors of the Toledo Society of Professional Engineers from 1981-90.  Les also served on the Board of Directors for Luther Home of Mercy for over 10 years and as the Board President from 1991-92.  He served on the Board of Directors for Lott Industries from 1986-89.  Les served on the Board of Directors of the Lucas County Association for Retarded Citizens from 1985-91 and its Chair from 1987-89.  He also served on the Charter Review Commission for the City of Toledo in 1985-86.  Dr. Lahti supervised 12 Master’s Theses and 3 Doctoral Dissertations.  In 1984, Les represented the University of Toledo at the Intermediate University College in Amman, Jordan to improve the relationships between the two academic institutions.

Les received numerous honors and awards including the Ford Foundation Fellowship at Carnegie Mellon from 1960-63, Nominee for Best Teacher Award for 1967 at Purdue University, The Shreve Prize for Chemical Engineering in 1967, the Herb Thober Award for Chemical Engineering in 1978, The Ohio Engineering Educator of the Year in 1978, and the Distinguished Service Award from Tri-State University in 1981.  He was honored by Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, and Tau Beta Pi honorary fraternities.  Finally, he was named Toledo Engineer of the Year in 1986 and “Boss of the Year” at the University of Toledo in 1987.

Les was born July 27, 1932 on a farm about 12 miles from Floodwood, Minnesota to Frank and Esther Lahti, who emigrated from Finland to the USA prior to WWI.  He was named after actor Leslie Howard and was the youngest of 4 children.  Momma Lahti chose the name Leslie because “We’re in America now.  Leslie Howard is a big Hollywood star and good looking too.  I want my youngest son to be an American, just like my hero Leslie Howard.”   Les grew up speaking Finnish and only started learning English when he attended elementary school.  Because of WWII, both of Les’s older brothers Charlie and Ernie went to war and the family had to sell the farm because they couldn’t maintain it.  Les and his parents (and sister Elvi) moved to Superior WI and Les graduated from Superior Central High School in 1950, where Les was honored to speak at the Commencement Ceremony.  After graduating from Tri-State in 1954, Les worked at Corning Glass in Albion MI where he met and later married Ruth Kelley in May, 1956.  Les is survived by his wife Ruth of 63 years, their 3 sons:  David, Mark, and Paul (Yvonne), 4 grandchildren Stephen (Kristy), Erik (Anna), Andrew, and Ryan, and 1 great grandchild Bryce.

Les enjoyed taking his family on multiple camping trips across the country and to many US National Parks and frequent trips to see his and Ruth’s siblings in North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan and Florida.  He also enjoyed a trip to Finland with David and cruises to Hawaii, Alaska, and the Baltic Sea with David & Paul and families.

No visitation service is planned; however, a memorial service will begin at 11am Saturday, August 24th, 2019 in Sylvania at Olivet Lutheran Church, 5840 Monroe Street, Sylvania OH  43560.

The family suggests tributes to Luther Home of Mercy in Williston OH, Olivet Lutheran Church in Sylvania OH, and the Dr. Leslie E. Lahti Scholarship Fund at the University of Toledo.  Online condolences to

To send flowers to Leslie's family, please visit our floral section.


Memorial Service
August 24, 2019

11:00 AM
Olivet Lutheran Church (Sylvania, Monroe Street)

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