In Memoriam

Apr 18 2018

Joan Yun Chung Fu

Joan C. Fu, the widow of Z. Y. Fu, for whom the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science is named, passed away peacefully on October 16, 2017. She was predeceased by her husband of 41 years, Z. Y. Fu, an international businessman and philanthropist. Mr. and Mrs. Fu’s extraordinary generosity was transformational for Columbia Engineering, ensuring its role as a global leader in science and technology for the 21st century. In a ceremony on October 22, 1997, Columbia University President George Rupp recognized the landmark gift by dedicating The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. Mr. and Mrs. Fu were also generous donors to schools and hospitals elsewhere in the United States and in China.

Mrs. Fu was born in Shanghai in 1932. Prior to her marriage, she worked in public relations for Jardine’s, a British conglomerate, in Hong Kong. She was fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese, Japanese, and English. A woman of great  style and flair, Mrs. Fu was also known for her warmth, humor, and generosity. For more than three decades, Mrs. Fu had a connection to Columbia Engineering through her brother, Chia-Kun “John” Chu, professor of applied mathematics. Mr.  and Mrs. Fu endowed The Fu Foundation Chair in Applied Mathematics, held by Professor Chu. In addition, The Fu Foundation in 1993 established a scholarship program that supported 62 students from China who graduated between 1995 and 2007, with the awards divided between Columbia College and Columbia Engineering. Several recipients of the Fu scholarships were so grateful for this support, feeling strongly that they would not be where they are today without those scholarships, that in 2012 they established the Fu Memorial Scholarship Fund to honor their benefactors. The Fu Memorial Scholarship supports five students from Columbia Engineering and Columbia College. Mrs. Fu is survived by her sister, Yvonne Meinwald, brothers John Chu and Theodore Chu, and three generations of Fu family members.

Robert A. Gross, 11th Dean of Columbia Engineering

Robert A. Gross, a scientist and educator, who served as the School’s 11th dean from 1982 until 1990, died on February 8, 2018, at his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He was 90 years old. Robert A. Gross, the Percy K. and Vida L. W.  Hudson Professor of Applied Physics, joined Columbia as a tenured professor in mechanical engineering in 1960, having already made significant contributions to the field of supersonic combustion and shock dynamics while an engineer at  Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corp.

At Columbia, he explored the emerging field of plasma physics and controlled fusion research. With C. K. “John” Chu, he cofounded in 1962 the Columbia Plasma Physics Laboratory, which carried out sponsored research of $2 million per year  for 30 years and trained more than 100 scientists and engineers. He personally advised 25 doctoral students and wrote a seminal textbook, Fusion Energy. In 1974, he was also recognized for his excellence in teaching with the Great Teacher Award.

A worldwide authority in plasma shock phenomena and the equilibrium and stability of high-pressure magnetized plasma systems, Gross served on numerous Department of Energy advisory committees that defined the direction of fusion power research in the United States.

As dean, he established one of the first national Science and Technology Centers awarded by the National Science Foundation in the area of telecommunications research. Envisioning a new building to provide  modern research facilities for telecommunications, microelectronics, and computer and information systems, he successfully raised $36 million in a 40-year, no-interest loan and $6 million gift from the State of New York. Morris A. Schapiro Hall, or the Center for Engineering Physical Science Research, opened in 1992.

A 1949 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Gross earned his PhD in applied physics from Harvard in 1952. Over the course of his career, he received the Guggenheim Fellowship and twice was awarded the Fulbright-Hays Fellowship. He was a fellow of the American Physical Society and a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He was honored for his life’s work by Fusion Power Associates in 1993. He retired from Columbia Engineering in 1995.

Robert A. Gross



Samuel Weissman, PE (MS’63, Civil Engineering), passed away on October 21, 2016. His career at Ammann & Whitney spanned six decades, until shortly before his death at 86. During his time with Ammann & Whitney, where he rose to partner and senior vice president, Sam was involved in hundreds of projects. For example, he provided research, development, analysis and design for structures requiring blast resistance to house the antiballistic missile system, and also worked on the façade restoration of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. He led efforts on notable bridge, transit, and highway projects, including the George Washington, Triborough, Verrazano Narrows, and Golden Gate bridges; transit station design in Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, and Atlanta, as well as in Japan, Argentina, and Indonesia; and highway designs, such as the I-10 covered deck in Phoenix. In later years, he mentored project managers, while bearing responsibility for all contract review, risk management, and financial oversight.

Sam received recognition for his work, including from the White House in 1969 and New York City Mayor Edward Koch in 1989. He was honored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in 2012 as the Metropolitan Section Civil Engineer of the Year. He was a fellow and life member of the ASCE, past president-elect and director of the ASCE Metropolitan Section, and a charter member of the Structural Engineering Institute.

A graduate of New York University, he received a BS in civil engineering and worked for the Army Corps of Engineers in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, before joining Ammann & Whitney in 1958. While working there, he earned his MS in civil Alumni engineering from Columbia University in 1963.

An avid hiker and devoted family man, he was preceded in death by his wife of almost 50 years, Arlene Yawitz Weissman, and is survived by his daughter Karen, son Eric, and their families.


Maximino Vasquez (BS’77, MS’78, Electrical Engineering), who was a chief engineer at Intel Corporation in San Jose, CA, died on August 10, 2016, in Fremont, CA. An outstanding student, he was valedictorian of his 1977 graduating class and earned his MS in electrical engineering the following year. Prior to joining Intel Corp., Vasquez worked for Bell Labs in New Jersey and then went on to start his own company. He held several patents as inventor.