Phi Beta Cons

On Professors Librescu and Granata

In response to an e-mail seeking more information about the victims of Monday’s tragedy, Ishwar K. Puri, Head of the Engineering Science and Mechanics Department at Virginia Tech, sent this statement to NRO:

I am the department head of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM) to which Professors Liviu Librescu and Kevin Granata belonged to.  They were both world class researchers, excellent teachers, outstanding mentors to doctoral students, and fully involved in outreach to the profession.  ESM is a unique interdisciplinary department, one of few in the US, and their presence greatly enriched our program.  There are few programs in the US that have scholars of their caliber and in their particular disciplines on the same faculty.
I grieve for them.  They will be dearly missed.  Both were good husbands and fathers.
Liviu Librescu was born in Romania but his quest for freedom brought him to the United States.  He was an exceptionally tolerant man who mentored scholars from all over our troubled world.  He wrote many books and monographs, and his scholarly publications in a number of areas are among the most highly cited in the world.  His research has enabled better aircraft, superior composite materials, and more robust aerospace structures.  He was well known internationally.  Over the last 10 years, he served as a member of the international advisory board of more than nineteen international conferences.
Kevin Granata served in the military, and later conducted orthopedic research in medical hospitals.  He came to ESM because our interdisciplinary approach to scholarship and learning excited him.  He had many scholarly interests related to neuromuscular control, to stability as he and his students researched how people walk and run, muscle and reflex response, and robotics.  The use of his research by other scholars worldwide had put him on a trajectory to become a notable star in these fields.  He was one of the top five biomechanics researchers in the country working on movement and cerebral palsy.
I hope that you will write in a manner that honors the memory of my fine deceased colleagues and describes our loss.  What a tragedy!
Yours sincerely,
Ishwar K. Puri

Professor and Department Head of Engineering Science and Mechanics

The Washington Post has longer profiles on Librescu and Granata, as does the New York Times in an interactive feature remembering the victims’ lives.
One of the saddest things about this event is that the victims all seemed to be among the most accomplished and promising people at Virginia Tech. My wife was particularly distraught when she read about Librescu, who we all know by now know survived the Holocaust and escaped from Communist Romania only to be gunned down in his own classroom. I told her that I guess Librescu had to survive those ordeals so that he could save 10 lives on Monday. What else can one say when confronted with something so seemingly senseless?


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