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Virginia Tech Shootings Hit Civil Engineering Department Hard

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By Debra K. Rubin, Engineering News-Record


The April 16 massacre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University in Blacksburg, Va., better known as Virginia Tech, took a heavy toll on the university's civil and environmental engineering department. A veteran professor, and possibly eight graduate and undergraduate CE students were among the 32 victims of the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old senior at the school. Cho, a South Korean English major who grew up in Centerville, Va., ended the two-hour shooting rampage by committing suicide with a gunshot to the face.

Most of the victims were killed in Norris Hall, an engineering school building. According to a note on the department's web site, Cho entered multiple classrooms there, including one in Advanced Hydrology taught by Prof. G.V. Loganathan. A Virginia Tech faculty member since 1984, he was among the victims.

In an email sent to the American Society of Civil Engineers, department head William Knocke confirms Loganathan's death and those of eight students, whom he did not identify.

So far, published reports identify the dead CE students as:

Brian Bluhm, 25, a graduate student with an undergraduate civil engineering degree from Virginia Tech

Matthew Gwaltney, 24, a graduate student with an undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech

Jeremy Herbstritt, 27, a graduate student with undergraduate degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology from Penn State

Jarrett L. Lane, 22, of Narrows, Va., a senior

Partahi Lombantoruan, 34, a doctoral student from Indonesia

Daniel O'Neil, 22, a graduate student from Lafayette, R.I.

Juan R. Ortiz, 26, a graduate student from Puerto Rico

Minal Panchal, 26, a first-year building-science student from Mumbai, India

"We are all dazed, saddened, confused…many emotions are at work as we try to deal with such evil," Knocke says, acknowledging the many "emails of concern" he has received. "I have heard from individuals all over the world, and many of my department head colleagues who have kindly said 'we're thinking and praying for you and your department.' That has been a source of comfort in the midst of despair." he adds. Knocke could not be reached for comment.

On its website, ASCE posted the following note:

"On behalf of its 140,000 members, ASCE extends its deepest condolences not only to the Society's student and faculty members at Virginia Tech, but to all the students, faculty, staff and their families, who have been affected by the incomprehensible events of April 16, 2007. As the news comes in we are learning the depth of this tragedy's impact on ASCE members. It is with great sorrow that we inform you that Dr. G.V. Loganathan, a long-time ASCE member and an active member of EWRI [ASCE's Environmental and Water Resources Institute], was among the victims of yesterday's tragic shootings. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, as well as his students, colleagues and friends. We join with the nation in sorrow over the magnitude of loss and suffering caused by this senseless tragedy, as well as in hope for, and support of, healing for the Virginia Tech community."

A note on EWRI's website adds that Loganathan's contributions to ASCE and EWRI "were great." He served on its Trenchless Installation of Pipelines Technical Committee, Environmental and Water Resources Systems Technical Committee and acted as vice chair for the Operations Management Technical Committee. He received ASCE's Wesley W. Horner Best Paper Award from the Journal of Environmental Engineering in 1996 and numerous university teaching awards. Loganathan, a native of India, earned his B.E. at Madras University in 1976, continuing his education with an M.Tech. degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur in 1978 and his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 1982. His specialties included hydrology, water resources systems and hydraulic networks.

"The American Society for Engineering Education is deeply saddened by the shocking events at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University," says Executive Director Frank L. Huband. "This terrible incident touches all of us, and we, in the engineering education community, feel immense sorrow at the loss of our fine colleagues and their promising students."

In a letter posted on the Virginia Tech College of Engineering web page, Dean Richard Benson wrote: "My heart aches for the lives of the students lost. These bright young men and women were in the prime of life, planning for rich, fulfilling futures." Benson added, "The murdered faculty members had devoted their lives to scholarship and education. They so beautifully embodied Virginia Tech's motto of 'Ut Prosim'--that I may serve."

Benson also said that plans are being made for a College of Engineering service to be held early next week.