Frank Anthony DeMarco Biography

By Dr. William Miller

On February 14, 2021 Frank DeMarco turned 100 years old. During these 100 years he has accomplished many amazing achievements. In the establishment of Essex College, the Faculty of Applied Science and the University of Windsor, Frank Anthony DeMarco is most prominent. What follows is a short chronicle of Frank’s life that contains at least a few of his life experiences and accomplishments. It soon becomes evident that Frank could focus his amazing passion, energy, and commitment to excellence on any activity he undertook. He is truly a Man for all Seasons!

Frank’s father, Francesco (Frank) DeMarco, was born on October 2, 1878, together with his twin brother Stefano, in Podargoni, Reggio di Calabria, Calabria, in the south of Italy. He arrived in New York City on June 18, 1900 sailing from Naples, Italy aboard the S. S. Trojan Prince and later came to Canada in June 1903 where he went on to start a fruit store business in North Bay, Ontario. In November 1910 Francesco travelled back to southern Italy and arrived in his hometown village of Podargoni. Francesco met Carmela Scappatura who had been born in Podargoni on November 4, 1891.  Francesco and Carmela were married in Podargoni on February 26, 1911. They sailed from Napoli, Italy aboard the S. S. America on April 30, 1911 and arrived in New York on May 12, 1911, in transit to North Bay, Ontario. The DeMarco family had six children born in North Bay by 1919.

In 1920 Frank’s mother, Carmela, was advised to return to the warmer climate of southern Italy for health reasons while she was pregnant. She took her six children with her to Podargoni while Francesco had to remain in North Bay to operate the family business. Frank Anthony DeMarco, the seventh of nine children, was born on February 14, 1921 in Podargoni, Italy. Frank was the only DeMarco child not born in North Bay. Francesco traveled to Podargoni in 1926 to bring his family back to Canada as soon as possible, but they were not able to reunite in North Bay until March 1929. The family returned to Canada by sailing on the S. S. Augustus from Naples, Italy on March 9, 1929 and arrived at New York on March 19, 1929. The family then travelled by trains to their home at 187 3rd Avenue, North Bay, Ontario.

When Frank started elementary school in North Bay he was at a great disadvantage as he could not speak English, but he won the medal for having the highest marks in the District of Nipissing when he graduated. He then attended North Bay Collegiate Institute and Vocational School from 1933 to 1938 and graduated with a Robert Simpson Scholarship to attend the University of Toronto and study Chemical Engineering. In 1940 Frank was classified as an enemy alien and had to report to the RCMP every month. He was finally able to secure a document that established he was a British subject as his father was already a naturalized British subject when Frank was born in Italy.

Frank started at the University of Toronto in September 1938 to study Chemical Engineering. On May 10, 1941, the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering “S.P.S.” announced in the Globe and Mail that Frank A. DeMarco, a student in Chemical Engineering has passed third year.    

Frank went on to earn a B.A.Sc. in 1942 and a M.A.Sc. in 1943. Frank was awarded a 1943 $500.00 International Nickel Company Scholarship for having consistently high standings in the majority of his courses. Frank continued his graduate studies on a part-time basis and was awarded a Ph.D. in 1951 in Chemical Engineering. His main research dealt with adhesives, including those used in the plywood construction materials utilized in the de Havilland Mosquito multirole combat aircraft. From 1941 to 1946 Frank lived in residence at St. Michael’s College that was federated with the University of Toronto.

As a graduate student with a M.A.Sc. degree, Frank was employed first as a Demonstrator and then as an Instructor at the University of Toronto. In the 1945-1946 Academic Calendar of the University of Toronto, Teaching Staff. Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry: F. A. DeMarco, M.A.Sc., Demonstrator in Chemical Engineering. Residence: St. Michael’s College. In the 1946-1947 Academic Calendar of the University of Toronto, Teaching Staff. Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry: F. A. DeMarco, M.A.Sc., Instructor in Chemical Engineering. Residence: St. Michael’s College.

While at the University of Toronto Frank DeMarco was very active in intramural sports as most intercollegiate athletic competitions in Ontario were suspended during the war. In his first year Frank was a member of the University of Toronto’s School of Practical Science (SPS) Junior Water Polo Team. In 1940 Frank was a member of the SPS Junior Rugby Team; the SPS Junior Water Polo Team; and the SPS Junior Baseball Team. In 1941 he was on the SPS Senior Rugby Team; the SPS Three Basketball Team; the SPS Three Hockey Team; the SPS Senior Water Polo Team; and the SPS Senior Swim Team (Manager). In 1942 he was on the University of Toronto Swimming Squad (Manager); the SPS Senior Hockey Team; the SPS Senior Rugby Team; the SPS Three Basketball Team; the SPS Swimming Team; and the SPS Senior Water Polo Team.

Frank DeMarco’s name was mentioned many times in “The Varsity” the undergraduate magazine of the University of Toronto. In the December 10, 1941 issue he was listed first in versatility as an athlete and described as one of the finest outsides in the interfaculty rugby teams. In the February 11, 1942 issue Frank made the headlines when he led his water-polo team to victory by scoring three goals inside four minutes. When playing water-polo he has been referred to in “The Varsity” as the “Big gun for the Engineers is versatile Frank DeMarco.”

Frank’s graduation entry in the 1942 University of Toronto’s Torontonensis Yearbook, page 122, Applied Science and Engineering, stated: “Frank Anthony DeMarco, North Bay, Ontario, Chemical. Armed with a Robert Simpson (North Bay) Scholarship, fought his way through S.P.S.; played Rugby, Hockey, Baseball, Basketball, Water Polo, Swimming. Was Manager of Water Polo II and Swimming III, IV. Member of the Newman Club III, IV.” 

Frank was deeply saddened when his older brother Joseph Julius Demarco, age 26, R.C.A.F. Warrant Officer, was killed on November 21, 1942 in a Wellington Bomber on convoy escort duty. Joseph was the rear gunner.  The plane had flown from Roberts Field Airport near Monrovia, Liberia and later ditched after engine failure into the Atlantic Ocean about 100 miles south of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Africa and a depth charge it was carrying exploded.

In the summer of 1943 Frank DeMarco played with the Copper Cliff Redmen senior baseball team in the Nickel Belt Baseball Association (N.B.B.A.) league as a pitcher. On Thursday, September 9, 1943 the Cooper Cliff Redmen defeated the Frood Tigers to win the Nickle Belt senior baseball championship. The team’s photograph, taken after the winning game, appeared in the September 11, 1943 issue of the Sudbury Daily Star. Talented ball players with often given employment opportunities in exchange for joining the baseball team.

On October 2, 1943 Frank DeMarco, “a noted senior baseball pitcher from Copper Cliff, Ontario,” joined Toronto’s Balmy Beach Beachers team in the Senior Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU) league. He was considered by sports writers in November as one of the “finds” of the 1943 football season. Even Jim Coleman, Member of the Order of Canada, and legendary Dean of Canadian sportswriters and columnist for the Globe and Mail referred to Frank as a “star” athlete in 1943. In September 1945 Frank started playing with the Toronto Oakwood Indians team in the ORFU league as quarterback and assistant coach.

As a graduate student Frank continued to be very active in sports. In addition to playing football, Frank DeMarco played in the Mercantile War Industries Hockey League at Rivina Gardens, near Evelyn Avenue and Annette Street in Toronto, for the Stafford Industries team in November 1943 and for the Toronto Fuels team in December 1943. 

In 1944 Frank was the Coach of St. Michael’s College Water Polo and Swimming teams. In 1945 Frank was the Coach of St. Michael’s College Water Polo and Swimming, Basketball, Rugby, and Hockey teams. Frank earned room and board while coaching at St. Michael’s.

In the 1946 University of Toronto’s yearbook Frank’s abilities were noted: “Under the guidance of football star Frank DeMarco as Coach” the University’s Water Polo Team in 1945-1946 went undefeated in five exhibition games. Frank was also the Coach of St. Michael’s Athletic Directorate, Football, Swimming and Water Polo teams.

On January 23, 1946, Father Vincent J. Guinan, C.S.B., President of Assumption College wrote to Frank DeMarco that he was very interested that Frank should come to Assumption, but he also expressed his feelings that Frank should complete his studies and receive a Ph.D. The Fathers knew about Frank because he had lived at the Basilians' St. Michael's College while a student and had a high profile as a scholar and athlete. As an undergraduate he had played many sports and had coached St. Michael's Intramural swimming, water polo and hockey teams, and was Manager of the University of Toronto swim team.

Subsequently, in the Spring of 1946 Frank, age 25, a Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto, was invited by Father John Murphy, Registrar of Assumption College to join Assumption College as an Assistant Professor, with a salary of $2,500, in the Department of Chemistry.

In April 1946 Frank Demarco started to play football in the Senior ORFU league with the Windsor Rockets (number 41, left-halfback and also at quarterback) for the 1946 season while teaching at Assumption College and studying for his Ph.D. On Saturday, September 7, 1946 the Windsor Rockets, in their first game of the season, beat the Ottawa Trojans 8-2 before 4,500 fans at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa. Frank DeMarco played a “standout game” and rifled a 25-yard touchdown pass to Mike Hedgewood.

During the 1946-1947 academic year Frank DeMarco supervised the formation of a Student’s Chapter of the Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC) as one of the accomplishments of College’s W. J. Storey Memorial Chemistry Club. Frank a CIC member (M.C.I.C.) served as an advisor to the Chemistry Club.

In the summer of 1947 Frank spent some time at the DeMarco Brothers’ Sport Centre on Elm Street in Sudbury helping his brothers Tony and John promote their store.

In 1947 Frank DeMarco, M.A.Sc., was the only Officer of Instruction at Assumption College identified with Engineering. He was also noted for his assistance to the Chemistry Club. In 1948 Frank DeMarco was still the only Officer of Instruction at Assumption College identified with Engineering, but was also the Coach of the Junior Football Team, and the Director of Intramural Sports.

On May 1, 1948 Frank DeMarco married Mary Valenti, the eldest daughter of Antonino (Tony) Valenti and Anna Maria Carmela Di Paola, at St. Monica’s Church in Toronto. Frank devoted the summers of 1949 and 1950 in Toronto working on research for his Ph.D. During these times he and Mary stayed at Mary’s parents house at 774 Spadina Road ln Toronto. Frank and Mary’s initial home in Windsor was at 2943 Peter Street in the Sandwich area of West Windsor. In November 1949 Frank and Mary had their first of twelve children (6 girls and 6 boys). Frank has joked, “It took time to have a balanced family, because we started off with five girls”. They lived in this home until 1953 when they moved to their redbrick home at 371 Sunset Avenue in Windsor, which they had helped design and build with aid from Mary’s father, a builder in Toronto. On August 3, 1960 their home was broken into and a small amount of money was taken from Mary’s purse. They remained in this home until 1961 when they moved to Rural Route #1 in River Canard and named their new home, Oakleigh. (7750 Matchette Road).

On October 27, 1948 the city’s senior football championship game was held at Windsor Stadium. The Varsity Purple Raiders of Assumption College coached by Frank DeMarco played the Windsor Rockets of the senior ORFU league, coached by Sam Sasso. The Rockets won 22-1 and were awarded the Hiram Walker Trophy. The game was unusual in a number of ways. In addition to it being an amateurs vs professionals game, Frank had previously played for the Rockets in 1946 and on the night of the game he was seriously ill in hospital. 

On October 29, 1949 Frank DeMarco coached the Purple Raiders of Assumption College as they won the Junior Ontario Rugby Football Union championship over the previously undefeated Hamilton Junior Wildcats with an 18-1 victory at Jackson Park.

Frank DeMarco’s name appeared prominently in Assumption College archives. In the Assumption College Calendar for 1946-1947, Frank DeMarco was the only Officer of Instruction associated with Engineering. In the 1947-1948 academic year the Officers of Instruction included Frank DeMarco, M.A.Sc., Engineering. The College offered courses in: Liberal Arts and Sciences; Pre-Law; and, Pre-Engineering. During this year Frank also served as Coach of the Junior Football Team and was the Intramural Sports Director. In the 1948-1949 academic year Assumption College offered Pre-Engineering courses. In 1949 Frank DeMarco was now only identified with Chemistry and was also the Head Football Coach. Frank DeMarco contributed to the formation of the Assumption Chemical Society in November 1949. In 1950 Frank DeMarco, M.A.Sc. was identified with both Chemistry and Engineering, as well as Head Football Coach. In 1951 Frank DeMarco, M.A.Sc. was only identified with Chemistry and Director of Intra-Mural Sports. In 1952 Frank DeMarco, M.A.Sc., Ph.D. was only identified with Chemistry and Director of Intra-Mural Sports. In 1953 Frank DeMarco, M.A.Sc., Ph.D. was only identified with Chemistry and Director of Intramural Sports. On April 2, 1953, Assumption College was given university powers, including the right to confer university degrees. In the 1955 Academic Calendar, Officers of Instruction included Frank A. DeMarco, B.A.Sc., 1942, M.A.Sc., 1943, Ph.D., 1951, all from the University of Toronto, Professor of Chemistry, and Instructor in Physical Education (First appointed in 1946).

On July 3, 1952 it was announced that the Rev. Eugene Carlisle LeBel would succeed the Rev. J. H. O’Loane as Superior and President of Assumption College. Father LeBel would later serve in 1963 as the first President of the University of Windsor when Frank DeMarco was Vice-President.

On January 20, 1954 it was announced the Dr. Frank A. DeMarco of Assumption College had been elected the Chairman of the Essex-Kent section of the Chemical Institute of Canada.

On March 1, 1954 the USA exploded a 15 megaton hydrogen bomb in the Marshall Islands that released large quantities of radioactive debris into the atmosphere.  There was concern by many Windsor citizens that the snow in Windsor might be radioactive after radioactive snow was found in Saskatchewan. On March 31, 1954 it was reported that Dr. Frank DeMarco, Head of Assumption College’s Chemistry Department, and John Huschilt, Instructor in the Physics Department, had gone to Detroit and used a Geiger counter from the Hershel Radio Company to determine the snow was not radioactive. During their trip to Detroit they had been accompanied by a Windsor Star reporter and a photographer.

On April 8, 1954 Dr. Frank DeMarco was a guest speaker at the Annual Athletic Banquet held at the Dominion Tavern. Close to 100 steak dinners were served as part of the celebration that honoured Assumption College’s first intercollegiate champions, the Purple Raiders basketball team.

Assumption College, as a Catholic institution, was not funded by the Province of Ontario. In early 1954 Frank DeMarco was the first to propose the creation of Essex College, as a non-denominational institution affiliated with Assumption College, that would be eligible for provincial funds. Frank’s proposal was especially important as it ultimately lead to the formation of the Faculty of Applied Science and the University of Windsor. Essex College was incorporated on July 19, 1954. The affiliation agreement between Assumption College and Essex College was signed on January 24, 1956.

On October 2, 1955 Frank DeMarco’s father, Francesco (Frank) DeMarco was in Windsor to celebrate his 77thbirthday with his twin brother Stefano (Stephen) DeMarco who lived at 610 Mercer Street in Windsor. The birthday celebration was part of a family reunion that had been organized by their families. Stefano had been born 15 minutes after Francesco and often referred to his brother as “the old one.”

On February 28, 1956, Dr. Frank DeMarco was appointed Chairman of the Academic Staff Committee of Essex College, as announced by W. H. Arison, President of the Board of Directors of Essex College.

On May 16, 1956 the Chemical Institute of Canada announced that Dr. Frank A. DeMarco has been elected Councillor representing District 6 (Southwestern Ontario) of the Institute. He has also been notified that he has been awarded a Summer Research Associateship by the National Research Council.

On January 25, 1957, Frank Anthony DeMarco, became a licensed (#11146016) Professional Engineer (P. Eng.) in the Province of Ontario.

On March 31, 1958 Frank A. DeMarco was saddened by the death of his uncle Stefano DeMarco at age 79. Stefano was a well-known Windsor grocer and had lived in the city for 34 years. Stefano was also the father of Dr. Frank G. DeMarco, MD., a graduate of the University of Western Ontario Medical School in 1943 and a prominent physician and surgeon in Windsor.

On April 8, 1959 it was announced by William H. Arison, President and Board Chairman, that Dr. Frank A. DeMarco, Ph.D., M.C.I.C., was appointed the first Principal of Essex College after serving as Academic Staff Chairman. 

On September 8, 1959, Dr. Frank DeMarco, Principal of Essex College, was appointed Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at Assumption University of Windsor.

On November 16, 1959 Vice-Chancellor and President Rev. E. C. LeBel announced that Dr. Frank A. DeMarco, Principal of Essex College, was appointed Dean of the new Faculty of Applied Science at Assumption University of Windsor. The appointment was made by the Board of Governors of Assumption University of Windsor on the recommendation of the Board of Directors of Essex College, which will be responsible for the operation of the new faculty. He was also the Chairman of the Faculty Council of the new Faculty.

On March 13, 1961, Camp Number 14 was established at Windsor, after a petition by Dr. Frank DeMarco, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science, to be responsible for administering, “The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer”, at the Iron Ring Ceremony to be held at Assumption University of Windsor for graduates of the Faculty of Applied Science.

On July 7, 1961 Dr. Frank DeMarco, Principal of Essex College and Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science was appointed the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Corporation of Essex College as announced by John W. Whiteside, Chairman of the Essex College Board of Directors.

On December 20, 1962 the new non-denominational University of Windsor was incorporated and the University of Windsor came into being on July 1, 1963. Essex College was dissolved and its assets were vested in the University of Windsor. On May 6, 1963 the Board of Governors appointed Frank A. DeMarco Vice-President of the University of Windsor, responsible directly to the President for the administration of all the University’s affairs effective immediately, as endorsed by the Senate the previous day. On May 25, 1963 it was announced that Dr. John Frances Leddy would succeed the Rev. Eugene C. LeBel, who was retiring on June 30, 1964, as President of the University of Windsor, effective July 1, 1964.

Dr. DeMarco was succeeded by James (Jim) Gordon Parr as Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science, effective July 1, 1964.

On November 17, 1964 Frank DeMarco’s father, Francesco (Frank) DeMarco, died at age 86 in North Bay, Ontario.

On January 7, 1967, Dr. Frank DeMarco’s rink, the entry from the Windsor Curling Club, won the Michigan Trophy, the premier award, at the 81st Annual International Bonspiel held at the Detroit Curling Club in Michigan.

On Sunday, March 19, 1967 Frank DeMarco’s mother, Carmela, died in hospital at North Bay, Ontario at age 74.

Starting in 1969 Dr. DeMarco served on the Essex County Board of Education as the separate school representative for Sandwich South and West, Colchester North, and St. Clair until December 1976.

In June 1973 Dr. DeMarco became Senior Vice-President at the University of Windsor and in 1979 was made Vice-President in charge of planning. 

On January 14, 1976 Dr. Frank DeMarco was elected the new President of the Greater Windsor Foundation that deals with the image and economic growth of Windsor.

In the 1978-1979 academic year Frank took a sabbatical leave and then in 1980 he resigned as Vice-President to return to teaching as a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. He taught the Engineering and Society course that included, ethics, duties and responsibilities of engineers, and laws relevant to engineering, until his retirement.

In 1980 Frank DeMarco was appointed a Governor of the International Development Research Center (IDRC) for a period of four years commencing on October 16, 1980. The IDRC, a Crown Corporation, was established by an act of Canada’s parliament in 1970 with a mandate “to initiate, encourage, support, and conduct research into the problems of the developing regions of the world and into the means for applying and adapting scientific, technical, and other knowledge to the economic and social advancement of those regions.”

On February 8, 1981 the Windsor Curling Club rink skipped by Frank DeMarco was the first Windsor entry to advance to the provincial finals of the Ontario Curling Association’s seniors championship being held in Gravenhurst February 18-21, 1981.

In 1982 Frank served on the Advisory Board of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association of Canada (APMA) to help plan for the long-term competitiveness of the industry.

In April 1984 he was appointed by Premier William Davis as a member of the Ontario Council on University Affairs for a term ending on February 28, 1987.

Dr. DeMarco retired from the University of Windsor on June 30, 1986 after 40 years of service. He was appointed Professor Emeritus of the University effective July 1, 1986. Frank also received an honorary Doctor of Education degree at the University of Windsor Fall Convocation held on Sunday, October 26, 1986.

Starting in 1953 with the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal, Frank was the recipient of many Commonwealth and Government of Canada medals and awards in addition to many other honours.

Dr. Frank A. DeMarco was named Italian of the Year in 1987 by the Windsor Italian community.

On June 6, 1996 Frank Demarco was inducted into the Windsor Essex County Sports Hall of Fame and was honored at the Cleary Centre in Windsor on October 19, 1996.

On May 14, 2009 Dr. DeMarco received the prestigious Clark Award, established in 1994 in honour of the late Charles J. Clark Sr., O.C., Q.C., LL.D., and former Chancellor of the University of Windsor, to recognize outstanding service to the University of Windsor.

In May of 2013 Frank and Mary DeMarco celebrated the 65th anniversary of their May 1, 1948 wedding during a family reunion at their home in LaSalle.

On January 10, 2015, Frank’s older brother, John Carmen Demarco, died at the age of 97 in Sudbury. Frank was left as the last surviving child of Francesco (Frank) DeMarco and Carmela Scappatura. Frank’s other predeceased siblings were: Catherine Albina Adelina (1931); Antoinetta Beatrice Carolun (1937); Joseph Julius (1942); Dominico Dante (1966); Concetta (1995); Antonio (2008); and, Vincent Victor (2014).

Dr. DeMarco was honored on May 28, 2016 at the University of Windsor by former colleagues and students, friends, staff and members of his family, who donated $100,000 to the University’s engineering and science faculties. An engineering research laboratory was named in honor of Dr. DeMarco. The Dr. Frank A. DeMarco Precision Wear Measurement Laboratory is located in the main atrium of the Ed Lumley Centre for Engineering Innovation (CEI) and is home to high calibre nano-scale characterization research. 

In May of 2018 Frank and Mary DeMarco celebrated their 70th anniversary of their May 1, 1948 wedding during a family reunion at their home in LaSalle. They have 12 children, 26 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.

On Sunday, February 14, 2021 (Saint Valentine's Day) Frank and Mary celebrated Frank’s 100th birthday at their home. They were joined by their children Terry, Jeanie, and Jerry to help with the celebration. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic safety concerns, about 35 additional family members were able interact with them using ZOOM video conferencing. Frank received many gifts from the family, friends, and the University. He also received several fancy birthday cakes and one even had 100 candles on it.