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Remembering Léo Thibault

June 26, 2012  By

Léo Thibault, Founder of Unigraph International and one of Canada’s printing pioneers, passed away at his home in Montreal on June 23 after a battle with cancer. He was 77.

Unigraph International has a long and storied history in Canada’s printing industry, beginning with Wilbert Thibault, Léo’s father, who founded Commercial Litho Plate Graining in 1933. Léo joined the company in 1951, just as it was beginning to drive the use of metal printing plates in the industry. Together Léo and Wilbert grew the company, eventually expanding internationally in more than 25 countries.

In 1982, Léo founded Unigraph International and soon brought his sons, John and Mike, into the company. Léo’s wife, Ann Louise, was also a key figure in the company. Again, two generations of Thibault’s would work together to help drive significant transformation in the printing industry.

“There is no doubt our father was a pioneer in the North American market with the elimination of alcohol in the pressroom – Unigraph played a big, big part in that.” says Mike Thibault, Technical Vice-President. “We weren’t the only ones, but we certainly were a major force back in the day when it was really unheard of.”

John Thibault, President of Unigraph, continues to explain, “It was a time when printers used 15 to 25 percent alcohol due to the press conditions, as well as more challenging jobs to print. It was clearly the way to go for the health of press operators and for the environment, as well. He kept at it through perseverance.”

Mike Thibault remembers his father and the company taking a lot of knocks through this period, but his father remained undeterred. “To his tribute, the tenacity is definitely a big part of why 30 years later we are pretty much the premier manufacturer [in this space], at least in Canada, and now we are making inroads into the U.S.”

John and Mike Thibault have been running Unigraph for the past six or seven years, continues to build the company through their father’s business approach. “It basically always comes back to helping the printer,” says John. “It was always to be there for the printer, to help them increase production and reduce costs.”

“The craftsmen model of share your knowledge was really near and dear to his heart,” says Mike, recalling how his father would regularly sit down with different manufacturers to better understand the technological directions of the industry.

“He was always keen on keeping up with what was happening in the industry,” says Al Kershaw, owner and Founder of The Print Wizard, who first met Léo Thibault in 1986 at a graphic arts show in Montreal. “They did a lot of R&D and worked quite a bit with the Rochester Institute of Technology. He was definitely a pioneer with running alcohol-free. His product turned out to be one of the best.”

During the Print World trade show in 2010, with Unigraph recognized as one of North America’s largest manufacturers of chemistry for the graphic arts industry, Léo Thibault fell ill and was rushed to hospital. He was immediately operated on at Western General Hospital for a cancerous brain tumor and remained in poor health until his June passing.

Visitation to celebrate Léo Thibault’s life will be held at Collins Clarke MacGillivray White Funeral Home in Saint-Lambert, Quebec, on Friday from 2:00 to 5:00 pm and on Saturday morning from 9:00 to 10:30 am. Church services are being held on June 30 at the St. Lambert Roman Catholic Church.

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