The Extraordinary Life of Liviu Librescu

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There are those who are remembered for their wisdom and caring during their lives, and others who are remembered for undergoing and surviving trials. Some are remembered for a life of accomplishments. And there are those who are remembered for heroic deeds. Every once in a while, there comes someone who is remembered for all of those things.

Liviu Librescu was born in Ploie?ti, Romania on August 18, 1930. He was still a child when the Romanian government allied itself with Nazi Germany in 1940. Librescu and his family were sent to a labor camp in Transnistria with thousands of other Romanian Jews, then later to a ghetto in the city of Foc?ani. At least a quarter-million Jews died in Romania during World War II, but the majority survived, including Librescu. Romania fell under Soviet administration after the war, and established its own Soviet-backed communist government by 1947.

Despite his spotty education during wartime, Librescu was determined to go to college. He achieved a degree in aerospace engineering from the Polytechnic University of Bucharest in 1952. Then a Master’s degree. He went to work for various Romanian research centers and got a PhD in fluid mechanics in 1969. Librescu’s work on experimental aircraft was well regarded and the Romanian Academy of Science honored him with the prestigious Traian Vuia award in 1972.

Librescu’s future seemed bright, except for the fact that he refused to join the Communist Party. That issue cost him his job at the Institute of Fluid Mechanics and Aerospace Constructions when he requested permission to emigrate to Israel. Librescu continued to study and publish -but his work had to be smuggled out of the country to the Netherlands in order to be recognized. And he kept up his campaign to move to Israel with his wife Marlena.
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Three years of work finally paid off in 1978 when the Prime Minister of Israel, Menachim Begin, made a personal appeal to Romanian president Nicolae Ceau?escu to allow the Librescus to leave, which he did and they did, immediately. Librescue joined the staff at Tel Aviv University in 1979, where he was a professor of Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering. In addition to teaching, he continued his work in fluid dynamics and aerodynamics, researching motion and materials for data that has applications for aircraft design, component manufacture, and safety. Librescu also became an Israeli citizen.

During an academic sabbatical in 1985, Virginia Tech invited Librescu to come to the US as a visiting professor. A year later, they asked him to stay permanently. Already well-known in the aerospace research community, Librescu found wider fame as a professor in America. He was requested at symposiums and meetings worldwide to present his research, and was awarded grants for further study. Still, he continued to teach, past the age when many would have retired. Librescu devoted over twenty years to Virginia Tech, where he was popular with students and faculty alike.

Librescu was teaching a class in room 204 of Norris Hall on Monday, April 16, 2007, as Holocaust Remembrance Day was being observed in Israel. Student Seung-Hui Cho went on a rampage, killing a total of 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus. He shot into several classrooms in Norris Hall. Professor Librescu heard the shots and closed his classroom door. He instructed students to go out the window. Several students urged Librescu to come along, but he held the door shut as Cho tried to enter. Cho then shot through the door four times, killing the professor. The gunman entered the room and killed one student; the rest had escaped through the second-story window. That day, 27 students and five faculty members were killed, 17 others suffered gunshot wounds, six people were injured trying to escape, and Cho committed suicide.

Hundreds attended Librescu’s funeral in Brooklyn on April 18th. His body was then flown to Israel, where his sons Arieh and Joe live, for burial in the town of Ra’anana. Hundreds more attended the service in Israel, during which a Romanian representative awarded Librescu the Star of Romania, the country’s highest civilian honor. Virginia Tech established a memorial scholarship in Librescu’s honor. The Librescu Jewish Student Center at Virginia Tech was named in his honor. In addition, other colleges have named scholarships for Librescu.

Liviu received following awards: Shofar of Freedom Award 2007; Inspire Awards 2007 in the fight against hate and intolerance (ADL 2007); “Medal of Valor” 2007 presented by The Simon Wiesenthal Center; AARP the Magazine Inspire Awards 2007; ”Most Inspiring Person of 2007”; Tribute to Librescu at The 68th Annual Awards Dinner of the NCFJE 2008; New York City Comptroller honors the memory of a Virginia Tech massacre victim, Liviu Librescu on Friday, November 14, 2008; Facilitator Award honoring posthumous the life and actions of Professor Librescu 2009.

Sources

Virginia Tech Memorial Page

Liv Librescu’s Resume

RateMyProfessors

Virginia Tech Massacre at Wikipedia

Israeli VA Tech massacre victim laid to rest

Liviu Libresco at Wikipedia

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February 15, 2011 - 5:02am
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