Obituary: Henry Sheng

Renaissance man, pianist, ambassador for Chinese culture, professor, chemical engineer

Henry Sheng, professor emeritus of chemical engineering at Cal Poly Pomona (1978-96), died peacefully in hospice surrounded by his family and former students in Claremont on February 10, 2019.

“Henry had many accomplishments, but the most important thing about him was his kind and caring nature,” his wife Sue Sheng said.

Henry Pa Hong Sheng was born August 25, 1931 in Shanghai, China, where his mother was his first piano teacher. He came to the US as young man and earned degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Maine, Purdue University, and the University of Oklahoma.

As a researcher for major American companies (including Westinghouse and Corning Glass Works) and professor at several universities (including Cal Poly Pomona and the University of California at Riverside), Mr. Sheng held seven patents and published numerous papers. In 2002 he became a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the highest award in his field.

In 1978 Mr. Sheng moved to Claremont and took a job as a professor of chemical engineering at Cal Poly Pomona. He remained at Cal Poly until his retirement in 1996. He then went on to teach at the University of California at Riverside for six more years.

Mr. Sheng excelled as an engineering professor and developed a faithful following of former students at each of the universities where he taught. Many of his former students remained in close contact, decades after they had studied under him.

As an avid pianist and ambassador for Chinese culture, Mr. Sheng performed piano concertos with several orchestras and studied at piano workshops in Austria, Scotland, Italy, Canada, the Czech Republic, England and the United States. 

“The Claremont Symphony Orchestra mourns the passing of Dr. Sheng, who was a supporter of the orchestra for almost 40 years,” said CSO president and longtime friend of Mr. Sheng, Cecilia Cloughly. In 1981 Mr. Sheng brought Chinese culture to Claremont by performing with CSO the Mongolian Suite by Chinese composer Ma Sze-Tsung. In 2011 he performed Johann Simon Mayr’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the CSO.

Robert Sage, CSO music director, is another longtime friend. He gave Mr. Sheng piano lessons for many years and remembers him fondly.

“Henry was a gentle soul who loved music and supported music education as a special friend of both the Claremont Symphony Orchestra and Claremont Youth Symphony Orchestra. He will be sorely missed by both orchestras.”

Mr. Sheng is survived by his wife, Sue Sheng, two younger sisters and a younger brother.

He will be long remembered by the hundreds of students he taught and inspired.

He was interred February 20 at Forest Lawn Covina Hills.


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