In Memoriam

Jan 02 2023

Brooks Ralph BS‘19

Brooks Ralph posing for a photo with three others

Brooks Ralph (Middle Right)

Columbia Engineering mourns the loss of Brooks Ralph BS’19, who passed away on February 20, 2024, following a tragic skiing accident in Vermont. During his time at Columbia Engineering, Brooks maintained a 4.0 GPA and was inducted into the Engineering Honor Society. He also earned Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) All-Academic Team honors in 2017 as a member of the lightweight rowing team. He took part in winning two IRA National Championships in 2016 and 2018. Brooks majored in Financial Engineering and Economics, and following graduation from Columbia, he worked in investment banking at Barclays. Later, he joined Hunter Point Capital as an investment associate.

Brooks is survived by his parents, Wayne and Sue, and his younger sister, Steffi. He will be remembered by the Columbia community as an exceptional student, athlete, and teammate.

Lauren Cardenas

Lauren Cardenas

Lauren Cardenas ‘16

passed away on September 4, 2023 in Brooklyn, New York. Lauren was born on April 18, 1994 in New York City, NY to parents Daniel and Loyda Cardenas.

Lauren pursued a very successful undergraduate career at Columbia University, earning a B.S. of Biomedical Engineering in 2016. During her undergraduate tenure, her academic pursuits, her entrepreneurial spirit and love for the arts shone in her success as a Columbia Design Challenge finalist, and in her writing, photography, and participation as a painting conservation research assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During her time at Columbia, Lauren described herself as, “an aspiring entrepreneur with a budding desire to push the world further, an insatiable intellectual curiosity, an enthusiasm to help others, and a motivation to collaborate and innovate creative solutions. Through my experiences, I have come to believe that each of us is born with the ability to harness an unlimited capacity— a capacity to coexist peacefully and engage with members of our world, a capacity to aid others, and lastly a capacity to create for ourselves and for each other. It is this self-motivated system of beliefs that drives me to solve the world’s multifaceted and deeply integrated problems.”

Following her graduation from Columbia Engineering, Lauren joined the team at International Business Machines (IBM) as a consultant from 2016 to 2018, and a senior consultant for IBM from 2018-2020. Following her time at IBM, she served as a Senior Consultant at Slalom from 2020-2021. She moved on to become a Technology Strategy Manager at Accenture from 2021-2023. Her expertise and passion for technology and strategy shined through each opportunity, and Lauren was known for her exceptional communication skills, organizational abilities, and passion for efficiency. Her colleagues and classmates have lauded her as a team player who was always ready and willing to support others in achieving shared goals.

Lauren will be remembered for her kind heart, her gift for bringing groups together, and her dedication to spreading happiness.

Bennett Miller

Bennett Miller

Bennett “Ben” Miller ‘59 ‘65

passed away on October 20, 2023 following a brief illness. Ben was born in New York City on January 18, 1938 to parents Meyer and Henrietta Miller. Deeply devoted to his academics and the Columbia Community, Ben attended Columbia College, where he was class president, a member of Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, and a member of the wrestling team. While pursuing his doctorate in physics, he was the recipient of a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. Following graduation, he joined the Ohio State University faculty as a professor, and went on to hold leadership positions at the Atomic Energy Commission and Department of Energy. Ben moved on from working for the federal government to cultivate alternative energy entrepreneurial opportunities. Highlights of Ben’s career include developing technology to reduce nuclear waste, building factories which convert wood waste into energy, and consulting on the creation of a plant that generates activated carbon for use in pollution control devices.

Ben will be remembered for his insatiable curiosity and love of learning, as well as his unwavering commitment to exploring the world.

Norman L. Alling

Aron Pinczuk, Professor of Applied Physics and Physics

Norman L. Alling PhD'58

died on March 22, 2022, at the age of 92. Norman devoted his career to mathematical research as a professor, and his personal life to his loving family. He published four books and over 40 papers that expanded the boundaries of mathematics. He also taught generations of students at Columbia, Purdue, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, the University of Rochester, Würzburg's Mathematics Institute in Germany, and at symposia around the world. Norman was passionate about nature, skiing, surfing, mountain climbing, astronomy, and history, and had a lifelong interest in science, art, and music. We remember his lively, curious mind and his loving heart; he never stopped reveling in the beauty of life and sharing this passion with those around him.

C.K. Chu

Columbia Engineering and Applied Science community mourns the loss and celebrates the life of Chia-Kun (John) Chu, the Fu Foundation Professor Emeritus of Applied Mathematics

The Columbia Engineering and Applied Science community mourns the loss and celebrates the life of Chia-Kun (John) Chu, the Fu Foundation Professor Emeritus of Applied Mathematics and a pioneer in computational mathematics. 

Professor Chu’s work in fluid dynamics, magnetohydrodynamics, and shock waves garnered him international recognition while his zeal for his life’s work prompted him to work tirelessly to create a home for applied mathematics at Columbia University. He is one of only seven mathematicians to receive an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree in Columbia’s 252-year history.

Professor Chu was born in Shanghai and was the son of parents with various degrees of Western education - his father received an MBA from NYU in 1929 and his mother spoke fluent English. He graduated in 1944 from St. John’s University High School, where the curriculum was half Chinese and half English. He was accepted at St. John’s University but decided to take the entrance examination for Chiaotung (now Jiaotong) University, the national science and engineering university.

Chia-Kun (John) Chu, the Fu Foundation Professor Emeritus of Applied Mathematics

Wen-Yi Chung EngScD'68

passed away unexpectedly on July 12, 2022. He was 88. He is survived by his brother Shuenn-Shion Chung and sister Shirley Chen. He is the father of Luke Chung, Filic Chung, and Lee-En Chung 'BS88.

Burak Firik MS‘18

Columbia Engineering mourns the loss of Burak Firik, a 2018 graduate of the Master’s program in computer science who was killed in the catastrophic earthquake in Turkey along with his wife and two young children. 

Firik was a promising professional and engaged community member residing in Corona, Queens. After graduating from Columbia Engineering, he worked as a software engineer and then as CEO of PashtunFund. He and his family were visiting relatives in Elbistan, Turkey when the earthquake struck. 

As a community, we are deeply saddened by this loss and the continuing devastation in Turkey and Syria. Please keep the Firik family in your thoughts. 

If you wish to contribute, Firik’s father-in-law has set up a GoFundMe for extended family members in Turkey to rebuild their homes and assist with living expenses and education. 

Columbia is a global University with students from all over the world. The events in Turkey and Syria have affected all of us deeply and many of you are eager to support the disaster response. Barnard has organized a helpful list of humanitarian organizations for you to consider. The Columbia Turkish Student Association has also been gathering much-needed supplies to send overseas. The University is working to reach out to students tied to the region who have been impacted by the tragedy. Please know that many University resources are available to our students, faculty, and staff. See the resources below, and learn how the Columbia community is responding to recovery efforts.

Burak Firik, his wife Kimberly, and their two sons

Peter Korn BS'65, MS'66, PhD'69

died on May 7, 2023. He always valued his education from Columbia University.

Dragomir R. Radev

The CS Department mourns the loss of Dragomir R. Radev, a 1999 computer science PhD graduate who unexpectedly passed away on March 29th in his home in New Haven, Connecticut. He was 54 years old and leaves behind his wife, Axinia, and children, Laura and Victoria. 

Radev worked with Professor Kathleen McKeown on seminal multi-document text summarization research, the topic of his PhD dissertation. His first job after Columbia was at IBM TJ Watson Research in Hawthorne, New York, where he worked for a year as a Research Staff Member. Then he spent 16 years on the computer science faculty at the University of Michigan before joining Yale University in 2017 as the A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of Computer Science and led the Language, Information, and Learning (LILY) Lab at Yale University.

His research and work were influential, from his widely cited paper on LexRank to his most recent papers providing datasets, benchmarks, and evaluation of metrics for text summarization. His wide-ranging research touched many areas beyond summarization. He worked on graph-based methods for natural language processing (NLP), question answering, interfaces to databases, and language generation. 

Dragomir R. Radev

Dragomir R. Radev

Louis Silbert BS'47, MS'48

passed away on January 16, 2022.

Stephen H. Unger

Columbia Engineering mourns the passing of Stephen H. Unger, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Columbia University. He passed away on July 4, 2023. Unger was 92 years old.

A pioneer in the fields of logic circuit design, software engineering, and technology policy, Unger worked at Bell Telephone Laboratories, where he developed software tools for the first electronic telephone switching system.

In 1961, he left Bell Labs to teach courses on technology and society at the Electrical Engineering Department at Columbia Engineering until his retirement in 2008. He was one of three tenured professors who joined the newly formed Computer Science Department in 1979, along with Theodore Bashkow from Electrical Engineering and Jonathan Gross from the Mathematical Statistics Department.

Stephen H. Unger

Stephen H. Unger

Alan Sobel BS'47

passed away March 15, 2023 after a short illness. He was a recognized expert in optic and display technology who did volunteer work focused on social justice. He was a terrible punster, had a deep love and knowledge of classical music, and was an avid camper and sailor.

Carl Wistman BS'52

was very proud of his Columbia education. He passed at age 91.

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