Robert Leslie Whitelaw, 90, of Blacksburg, passed away at his home yesterday afternoon, April 6, 2008, of complications due to advanced Alzheimer's disease. Robert was born in mainland China to Leslie and Mary Whitelaw on April 24, 1917. After 10 years in China with his missionary parents, he returned to the family home in Toronto, Ontario, where he earned his Masters Degree in Engineering Science at the University of Toronto in 1939. During World War II, he was an aircraft designer and inspector for the British government, twice crossing the Atlantic. His wartime assignments included one in Nashville, Tennessee, where he met his wife-to-be Clara. They were married in 1942 and began a family and a life together. A year of training at the School for Reactor Technology in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 1953 prepared him to become a principal engineer with the Babcock & Wilcox company in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was the project manager for the power plant of the world's first and only nuclear-powered merchant ship, the NS Savannah. After working for General Motors and teaching engineering at the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, he was offered the opportunity to teach nuclear and mechanical engineering at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He was at VPI from 1966 until his retirement in 1987 as Professor Emeritus. His wide-reaching human and intellectual skills made him a remarkable teacher and he considered these years to be the fulfillment of his professional life. His spiritual convictions and Christian upbringing were the guiding principles both professionally and privately. After retirement, he traveled extensively as a public speaker, responding to the demands for the exposition of his creative and original ideas. His droll sense of humor was best demonstrated when remarking on distant mountains during a trip in the American West "Just think, there are places up there where the hand of man has not yet set foot". He was truly a Christian, husband, father and teacher. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Clara Whitelaw; and their three sons, John, Richard and Edwin. He is also survived by his two brothers; three grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. The family wishes to extend it's deepest appreciation to the caregivers who loved and tended him during his protracted journey through Alzheimer's. Graveside services will be held Tuesday, April 8, 2008 at 1 p.m. in the Westview Cemetery, Blacksburg, with the Rev. Monroe Hedrick officiating. There will be a visitation from 6 to 8 p.m. at McCoy Funeral Home in Blacksburg on Monday, April 7, 2008. For further information or questions, feel free to contact the family at 540-239-0318.