Virginia Tech Magazine
Memorial Issue | May 2007

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In Memoriam

Ross Alameddine
Ross Alameddine
Virginia Tech University Studies sophomore Ross Alameddine recently declared a major in English and minors in French and business, fields that reflected his creativity and his computer knowledge.

He was the son of Lynnette Alameddine and Dr. Abdallah Alameddine and brother of Yvonne Alameddine. From Saugus, Mass., formerly of Melrose, Mass., Ross was a 2005 graduate of Austin Preparatory School.

Ross enjoyed computer games and played them competitively. He beta-tested well-known games and even sold online characters. Before coming to Virginia Tech, he worked as a home-computer repair specialist.

Whether between classes or on nice days, Ross enjoyed rollerblading. He adored movies and music, played piano, and sang at Austin. Ross's fondness for language and voicing strong opinions was manifested through active participation in the French and Debate clubs at Austin.

The above qualities developed on Ross's journey through college. English instructor Brent Stevens writes, "He talked about his life, his emotions, his deep insights. . . . He put himself out there in front of 35 people, most of whom he did not know, . . . helping us to understand what we were reading and viewing with his unique perspective. . . . Knowing Ross Alameddine . . . sustains the belief that we all need so desperately right now: that there is good in this world."

Ross always sought to make others laugh and enjoy life. "From our first few days together in class," writes English instructor Robert Canter, "I remember thinking, 'Here's a man who's going to make his children laugh. Here is a man who deserves the title 'beloved.' Here's a man who, just by being himself, makes you a better person.'"

Christopher James "Jamie" Bishop
Jamie Bishop
Jamie Bishop, devoted son, gentle colleague, and generous friend, died at the age of 35 while teaching introductory German. Although his courses were legendarily rigorous, "Herr Bishop" was popular with students because he always gave them whatever individual attention they needed to succeed. Jamie was a fun-loving but no-nonsense man, easy-going but passionate about the environment, nature, art, and teaching.

Jamie joined the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures as an instructor in 2005 and was also an instructor in the Faculty Development Institute.

He had a reputation as a techno guru and a passionate and gifted photographer. His art vibrantly captures the intensity with which he viewed the world and the beauty he found there. Jamie also designed book jacket covers and created multimedia science fiction art. He had planned to enter the B.F.A. program at Virginia Tech in fall 2007 to study graphic art.

Jamie hailed from the small town of Pine Mountain, Ga., and earned bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Georgia. He interned at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and then spent many years abroad. As a Fulbright Scholar, Jamie studied at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität in Kiel, Germany, and also worked as a freelance translator, German tutor, and teacher of English in Heidelberg.

A man of keen wit with a contagious enthusiasm for life, Jamie was an avid hiker, film connoisseur, and devoted fan of the Atlanta Braves.

Jamie shared the conviction that studying foreign languages and cultures is not only a joy but also fundamental to learning about and understanding humanity.

Brian Roy Bluhm
Brian Roy Bluhm
Brian Roy Bluhm was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on July 19, 1981. Brian graduated from secondary school at duPont Manual in Louisville, Ky., and earned his bachelor of science in civil engineering from Virginia Tech in December 2004.

After enrolling in the civil engineering master's degree program at Tech, Brian served as a teacher's assistant and focused on water resources, with sustainability of water quantity using safe yield of a reservoir during a critical drought period as his main research area. He completed his degree in 2007.

Brian was a member of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Baptist Collegiate Ministries, among other organizations. His thirst for knowledge was endless and his interests wide-ranging, among them music, history, nature, and animals. His first love was for God, which he exemplified through his kindness, warm smile, memorable laugh, and friendliness, and he loved his family and friends.

Growing up, Brian was passionate about sports, particularly baseball, and his favorite team was the Detroit Tigers. He also loved Virginia Tech sports, especially football and basketball. He showed up for games in Virginia Tech colors to show his support.

Brian, who had passed the first section of his Professional Engineer exam, had recently accepted a position in the engineering firm Hatch Mott MacDonald in Hunt Valley, Md.

Brian would want to be remembered for his love of God, family, and friends, the Detroit Tigers, and Virginia Tech. He loved life and lived it to the fullest.

Ryan Christopher
Ryan Christopher Clark
Ryan Christopher Clark, age 22, was born in Landstuhl, West Germany, on May 29, 1984, to Letitie and Stanley Clark.

He grew up in Martinez, Ga., and graduated from Lakeside High School in May 2002. Ryan, who became interested in music when he was in the sixth grade, was a member of the Lakeside Marching Band and the Boy Scouts of America. He was active in many service organizations, including Communities in Schools of Augusta/Richmond County Teen Health Corps and Golden Harvest Food Bank. He was also a counselor and then the musical director at Camp Big Heart, where he spent two weeks every summer for the past eight years working with mentally impaired children.

At Virginia Tech, Ryan was a member of the Class of 2007 and was scheduled to receive his bachelor of science with a triple major in psychology, biology, and English at the 2007 Commencement. He planned to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience and wanted to work with the mentally impaired.

During his time as a Virginia Tech student, he was a distinguished campus leader. He played the baritone in the Marching Virginians and was a resident advisor in West Ambler Johnston Hall. He also was an advisor in the Imaginarium programming resource center and worked at West End Market.

Known to his friends as "Stack," Ryan leaves memories that will be forever cherished in the hearts of his immediate and extended family, band mates, residents of Ambler Johnston Hall, colleagues, and friends.

Austin Michelle Cloyd
Austin Michelle Cloyd
Austin Michelle Cloyd lived life boldly, seeking new experiences and embracing those she felt passionate about. She lived her life with purpose, knowing what she wanted to accomplish and how to get there.

Born in Charlotte, N.C., to Bryan and Renee Cloyd, Austin grew up in three university towns before moving to Blacksburg. She graduated with honors from Blacksburg High School in June 2006.

Austin traveled the world with her family and was interested in politics and international and environmental issues. A double major in international studies and French at Virginia Tech, she took advantage of every learning opportunity. She was in the Honors Program, an officer in the International Relations Organization, and an active participant in several model United Nations conferences.

A tall girl with flaming red hair and a bright smile, Austin played basketball throughout secondary school. She worked four summers with Appalachia Service Project to help make homes in rural Appalachia warmer, safer, and drier. She loved children and worked with them as a babysitter, a day-camp counselor for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a group leader for the Champaign-Urbana Service Project, and a swimming instructor at Tech's McComas Hall. She enjoyed reading, scuba diving, music, concerts, college basketball games, travel, and adventures with friends.

Austin had a brilliant mind, a compassionate heart, and an iron will. She loved her brother, her parents, and her entire family. She not only wanted to help others, she did. Her favorite quote captures much of her outlook on life: "No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. And if everyone does something, then together we can change the world."

Jocelyne Couture-
Jocelyne Couture-Nowak
Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, beloved mother and wife and a member of the Blacksburg community since 2001, was engaged in her passion, teaching Intermediate French at Virginia Tech, when she was killed. Jocelyne was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1958 and lived both in Quebec and Nova Scotia before moving to Blacksburg.

Family, friends, students, and colleagues remember Jocelyn's community spirit, love of nature, and dedication to the preservation of her francophone heritage. She would approach anyone she heard speaking French to welcome him or her to the local francophone community.

Before moving to Virginia, Ms. Couture-Nowak was instrumental in the development of the École Acadienne de Truro, Nova Scotia, which opened in 1997 and ensures access of francophone families to a safe school environment and French language education.

Jocelyne also taught at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro, in the 1990s, moving to Blacksburg when her husband was appointed head of the Department of Horticulture at Virginia Tech.

Jocelyne's brutal death contrasts sharply with her peaceful life, filled with family hikes in the bucolic countryside of her homes in the forests of Nova Scotia and Southwest Virginia, her flower-filled home gardens, her congenial gatherings of friends and students, and her cherished family. She died in the school setting that had been the touchstone of her life.

Jocelyne's joie de vivre touched all who encountered her. An unusual blend of energy and grace, she has been described as "effervescent" and a "vivacious swirl of life force." She also brought joy by living joy.

May that spirit, her spirit, be lived by those who remember her so.

Dr. Kevin P. Granata
Dr. Kevin Granata
Dr. Kevin Granata, a professor in the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM), was known by friends and colleagues as a man who was passionate--first and foremost about his wife, Linda, and their children, Eric, Alex, and Ellen, and also about his work as an educator and researcher.

"Professor Granata distinguished himself by making many outstanding scholarly contributions," said ESM Department Head Dr. Ishwar Puri. "He has been hailed by experts in the field of biomechanics as one of the top five researchers in the nation for his studies of movement dynamics in cerebral palsy."

Born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1961, Kevin completed undergraduate degrees in electrical engineering and physics at Ohio State University (OSU) and a master's degree in physics at Purdue University, where he met Linda. He returned to OSU to earn a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering.

In 1997, Dr. Granata was recruited by the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Virginia to direct research in the Motion Analysis and Motor Performance Laboratory. After coming to Virginia Tech in 2003, he established the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Laboratory, a top-flight research facility he co-directed with Dr. Michael Madigan of ESM.

"Kevin was a visionary scientist who truly believed in the possibilities of changing the world through theoretical and empirical research," said Dr. Thurmon Lockhart of the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. "As a friend, he was caring and pure of heart. He gave me guidance about living a simple life. He was my friend, my colleague, and my mentor, and he will be truly missed."

Matthew Gwaltney
Matthew Gwaltney
Matthew Gwaltney, a second-year master's student in the Charles E. Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, wanted to improve awareness and education about environmental issues to encourage people to be proactive in protecting the environment and improving the quality of life for everyone.

In 2005, Matthew earned his bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, from Virginia Tech in civil engineering, with a concentration in environmental and water resources engineering. As a graduate student, he taught civil engineering labs and was conducting research on storm- water management.

Matthew was born Dec. 11, 1982, to Karen P. and G. Gregory Gwaltney Jr. He was a 2001 graduate of Thomas Dale High School in Chester, Va. Among his high school awards and recognitions were memberships in the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society. Continuing his academic achievements at Virginia Tech, he was inducted into Chi Epsilon, the civil engineering undergraduate honor society; Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society; the National Society of Collegiate Scholars; Phi Eta Sigma; Golden Key International Honor Society; and Phi Kappa Phi, a university-wide honor society.

Passionate about sports, Matthew was a master of sports statistics and trivia. He was a devoted Hokies fan and enjoyed all ACC sporting events. The Atlanta Braves, Chicago White Sox, and Chicago Bulls led his list of favorite professional teams. At Thomas Dale, Matthew was an avid, dedicated basketball and baseball team member. At Virginia Tech, he was often found in the gymnasium involved in a pick-up basketball game.

Matthew had many lasting friends who have remembered him as honest, dedicated, generous, and intelligent . . . a real mentor and role model.

Caitlin Millar
Caitlin Millar Hammaren
Caitlin Millar Hammaren had a way of making others feel as if they were her best friend. Her smile was contagious and her eyes sparkled under any circumstances.

Born on May 4, 1987, and from Westtown, N.Y., Caitlin was president of the Minisink Valley High School choir and a member of the National Honor Society. For years, she served food at the Pulaski fire company's annual pancake breakfast.

At Virginia Tech, where Caitlin was a sophomore double majoring in international studies and French, she continued caring about and helping people. She was events chair for her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and was one of their top fundraisers in the Relay for Life. She was also a resident advisor in the Residential Leadership Community. Her passion for that role was so strong that she took care of each of her residents as if they were her own children. As a result, she was inducted into the National Residence Hall Honorary, an organization that recognizes only the top 1 percent of residence hall leaders.

Caitlin dedicated her time outside her studies to many activities close to her heart, among them riding horses, singing, and playing the violin.

She will be missed by all who knew her.

Jeremy Michael
Jeremy Michael Herbstritt
Jeremy Michael Herbstritt loved to hike, kayak, bike, ski, and work on the family farm. A phenomenal friend, brother, and son and a dedicated teacher, he was born on Nov. 6, 1979, and grew up on the Herbstritt farm in Bellefonte, Pa.

Jeremy graduated from Bellefonte Area High School and received a bachelor of science in biochemistry and molecular biology at Pennsylvania State University. He returned to Penn State to earn a B.S. in civil engineering, with honors, in 2006.

He then enrolled as a graduate student in civil engineering at Virginia Tech, where he was a teaching assistant and recipient of the Sussman Scholarship for summer 2007.

Jeremy worked for the Guided Path Dairy Farm in Bellefonte and for the Centre County, Pa., Extension office, where he collected mosquitoes to be tested for the West Nile virus. He is credited with discovering the first West Nile virus-infected mosquito in Centre County.

While growing up, Jeremy was involved in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. He was a member of the Centre County 4-H Gold Bullets Club; Centre County Sheep Club; Centre County Beef Club; and the Knights of Columbus, Council 1314.

An avid runner, he competed in the Pocono and Steamtown marathons and participated for three consecutive years in the Tussey Mountainback 50-mile relay. He was helping his sister, Jennifer, train for the Boston Marathon.

Jeremy will forever be loved and missed by all and his amazing life will never be forgotten. A memorial 5K will be run annually by his friends and family so that his compassionate heart and passion for life will live on.

Rachael Elizabeth
Rachael Elizabeth Hill
Rachael Elizabeth Hill of Glen Allen, Va., loved to read, especially novels and the Bible. An accomplished classical pianist, she had studied piano since the age of six.

Although Rachael had just started college as an undergraduate in fall 2006, she already knew she wanted to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry, specializing in nanotechnology.

The daughter of Allen and Tammy Hill, she was a 2006 graduate of Grove Avenue Christian School in Richmond, Va. The consensus of her classmates and other people who knew her well is that it is difficult to capture the beauty, intelligence, poise, leadership, and other wonderful traits that Rachael possessed.

She enjoyed classic movies, playing volleyball, shopping for shoes, and hanging out with her parents.

Rachael was perpetually prepared. One of her beloved scriptures is Song of Solomon 8:5: "Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?" She saw herself as the one coming out of the wilderness and needing to lean on her Savior more and more. Her personal goal was to glorify God in all she did through her Lord Jesus Christ.

Rachael's high school administrator writes, "The world has lost one of its brightest prospects, but the Lord is glorified through the Daughter of the King that she is, the life that she lived, and the impact Rachael had on others in the name of Jesus."

Her senior yearbook quote from C.S. Lewis sums up best what her family feels she would say at this time: "God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain."

Emily Jane Hilscher
Emily Jane Hilscher
Emily Jane Hilscher was the beloved daughter of Eric and Elizabeth Hilscher, best friend and sister of Erica, and granddaughter of Gilman and Mary Carlson and Carl and Merle Hilscher.

She graduated from Rappahannock County High School as a member of the Class of 2006. Emily was a skilled horsewoman, animal lover, enthusiastic cook, and imaginative artisan. She was always wise beyond her years and insisted on fairness in everything. She wanted people to be happy, and she was eternally trying to save someone or something.

Emily had a passion for horses, and in the fall of 2006, she began what was to be an eight-year journey at Virginia Tech, which would have culminated with her becoming a veterinarian and then working in an equine practice. She became a member of the Virginia Tech equestrian team in spring 2007. Emily was a member of the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association and competed successfully in her first show at Virginia Intermont College on Feb. 12, 2007. She was scheduled to compete in her second show on April 21.

According to her coach, "Emily was just entering her intercollegiate riding career. She showed great promise and had a perfect attitude that would have made her a very successful intercollegiate rider. Her strong work ethic and determination were always displayed as she spent long hours at equestrian club events, always with a smile on her face."

Jarrett Lee Lane
Jarrett Lane
Jarrett Lee Lane was fun loving and full of spirit. He had a caring heart and was a friend to everyone he met, both in his hometown and at Virginia Tech, where he was a senior in civil engineering.

Born in Giles County, Va., on March 28, 1985, Jarrett was raised in Narrows, Va., by his mother, Tracey Lane, and always excelled in sports and academics. He graduated from Narrows High School with a 4.0 grade point average; participated in football, basketball, tennis, and track; played in the band; and participated in clubs and community organizations. He became the school's top tennis player and earned all-district honors in football, basketball, and track. He was the valedictorian of his graduating class and a graduate of the Southwest Virginia Governor's School.

Jarrett realized a long-time goal when he became a Hokie in fall 2003. While at Virginia Tech, he played intramural sports and became a member of the Campus Crusade for Christ. He interned for the Site and Infrastructure Development Department in Virginia Tech Facilities for nearly two years. As a senior, he was awarded The Stanley and Frances Cohen Scholarship, a civil engineering scholarship.

Jarrett would have graduated from Virginia Tech in the 2007 Commencement. He had been accepted at the University of Florida's Coastal Engineering Graduate Program.

Jarrett took great pride in being a Hokie and enjoyed his experiences at Virginia Tech. He often traveled home on weekends, visiting family and friends, attending First Baptist Church, and playing sports with friends.

Jarrett recognized the importance of being a serious student but, even more so, the importance of living life to its fullest.

Matthew Joseph
La Porte
Matthew La Porte
Matthew J. La Porte, a sophomore majoring in political science, loved playing music and relished the various challenges he faced as a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.

Born on Nov. 20, 1986, Matt was the son of Joseph and Barbara La Porte of Dumont, N.J. He had one sister, Priscilla.

Matt graduated from Carson Long Military Institute in New Bloomfield, Pa., where he excelled in academics and leadership and served as drum major of the cadet band.

At Virginia Tech, he was a member of the corps of cadets and played tenor drum for the Regimental Band, the Highty-Tighties. His musical expertise led to his selection as a member of the Southern Colonels, the cadet jazz band. He was also a Fire Team leader in his company.

Matt was attending college on an Air Force ROTC scholarship and was working to earn a commission in the United States Air Force. His goal was to be an intelligence officer once on active duty.

He was a bright student, and he consistently scored high marks on his physical fitness tests; peers admired his strength and stamina. He demonstrated his enthusiasm for physical fitness by joining the Air Force Special Operations Preparation Team and participating in a rigorous physical training regimen.

Considerate and mature, Matt was a cadet with unlimited potential who loved a challenge. He was working hard to prepare for Air Force ROTC summer field training, a 28-day leadership evaluation.

His family and friends, as well as the faculty and staff at both Carson Long and Virginia Tech, mourn his passing.

Henry J. Lee
(Henh Ly)
Henry Lee
Henry J. Lee (Henh Ly) was always the one to repair his family's computers, which turned out to be good preparation for becoming a computer engineering major at Virginia Tech. Henry was the ninth of 10 children of Song Ly and Mui Lenh, who moved from Vietnam to Roanoke, Va., in 1994.

An academic achiever, Henry graduated from William Fleming High School's International Baccalaurate Program as class salutatorian with a 4.47 grade point average. He was also a member of the French and Beta clubs. At Virginia Tech, he was a dean's list student even as a freshman.

Henry's brother, Manh, also attends Virginia Tech, and his sister, Chi, has completed her studies in accounting and received her degree during the 2007 Commencement ceremonies.

Henry was a creative person, interested in origami and photography. Additionally, he liked to watch movies and hang out with his friends. He will always be fondly remembered by his classmates and teachers as the young man with an open smile and zany personality. His Virginia Tech classmate Nathan Spady called Henry "an extremely bubbly guy, always ready to go."

"Henry loved his family and was a good son," writes a family friend. One of his proudest moments was becoming an American citizen in May 2006. Although the Ly family will forever miss their treasured child, they find some comfort knowing that Henry died a heroic death while trying to help his teacher block their classroom door.

Dr. Liviu Librescu
Liviu Librescu
The revelation that Dr. Liviu Librescu blocked the door of his classroom in Norris Hall on the morning of April 16 so that his students could escape through the windows came as no surprise to his family, friends, and colleagues. The renowned aeronautical engineering educator and researcher had demonstrated profound courage throughout the 76 years of his life.

As a child in Romania during World War II, Liviu was confined to a Jewish ghetto, while his father was sent to a forced labor camp. After surviving the Holocaust, Liviu moved forward with stalwart determination to become an engineer.

During the rise of the Communist Party in Romania in the 1960s, Liviu completed his Ph.D. at the Academy of Science of Romania and began to achieve academic prominence. When he and his wife wanted to leave Romania for Israel, it took them three years and the help of the Israeli government to obtain visas.

Liviu taught at Tel-Aviv University until he spent a year on sabbatical at Virginia Tech. The family decided to settle in Blacksburg in 1985, and Dr. Librescu became one of the university's--and the world's--most respected educators and researchers in the field of aeronautical engineering.

Dr. Librescu is survived by his wife, Marlena, and his sons, Joseph and Arieh, who reside in Israel. During his funeral in Israel, Marlena was presented with the Grand Cross of Romania, the nation's highest civilian honor, in honor of her husband's "scientific achievements and heroism."

Dr. G.V. Loganathan
Dr. G.V. Loganathan
The high regard and fondness that students in the Charles E. Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering feel for Dr. G.V. Loganathan is a reflection of the fact that they were his top priority. Phrases such as "the best professor I ever had," "the kindest person I've ever met," and "incredibly wise and gentle" are common among the tributes paid to Dr. Loganathan by undergraduate and graduate students.

Born in the state of Tamil Nadu, India, in 1954, G.V. journeyed to the U.S. for graduate studies at Purdue University, where he earned his Ph.D. in civil engineering. In December 1981, he joined the faculty of Virginia Tech and embarked on a remarkable career as one of the university's most accomplished educators and one of the nation's most respected researchers in the fields of hydrology and water resources systems.

Virginia Tech recognized Dr. Loganathan's exceptional devotion to students by presenting him with virtually every teaching honor offered by the university, including the 2006 W.E. Wine Award for Excellence in Teaching.

"Professor Loganathan was an exemplary educator who cared greatly for his students and their well-being," said Dr. William R. Knocke, head of the Via department. "He was a kind soul, pure in heart, who taught us through his words and actions how to answer the calling to be a teacher, a mentor, and a beloved friend."

Dr. Loganathan is survived by his wife, Usha, and his daughters, Uma and Abhi.

Partahi M. "Mora"
Partahi Lumbantoruan
Partahi M. "Mora" Lumbantoruan, a Ph. D. student in civil engineering, was calm, caring, and talented and was always ready to help others.

A native of Indonesia, he was born on April 26, 1972, and earned his B.S. and master's degrees in civil engineering at Parahyangan Catholic University.

Mora came to America in 2004 to earn his doctorate in civil engineering at Virginia Tech and joined the Indonesian community. He enjoyed football games, grilling saté for the international street fair, taking road trips, and engaging in spiritual and intellectual discussions. Quiet and shy, he was quick to join in lively political discussions, especially those relating to Indonesian political affairs.

Mora's smile was contagious and he radiated positive energy that attracted and cemented friendships. He loved Virginia Tech and devoted himself to Tech traditions and the football team.

Mora was admired for his patience, wisdom, and compassion for others. He could put a smile on the faces of stressed friends and help them not to worry about little things. He faced each day with a positive attitude; put others' needs before his own; and was the son, grandson, nephew, cousin, uncle, husband, and father everyone should have.

As a true hero, Mora spent his final moments on earth sacrificing his life to save that of another. If he were here today, he would ask us to keep our chins up and to smile. He would want us to gain strength from this tragedy and to live each day to the fullest.

"Rest in peace my brother . . . you will not be forgotten."

Lauren Ashley
Lauren Ashley McCain
Lauren Ashley McCain, a tribal member of the Choctaw Nation, was a freshman from Hampton, Va., majoring in international studies. Calling Virginia Tech "almost heaven," she loved the entire campus community.

Lauren strived for excellence in her studies, but as much as she cared about learning, she cared about people more. She had a quirky sense of humor and a love of life that she shared with everyone. Her smile was bright and cheered those around her.

She had many interests and was active in several organizations. Lauren combined her love of music with her daily workouts and runs. She was involved in intramural soccer and women's flag football and loved the German language and culture.

Active in Campus Crusade for Christ, New Life Christian Fellowship, and Bridges International Ministries, Lauren cared deeply about the international community and participated in campus ministries that reached out to international students. She spoke often of her desire to travel, to study abroad, and to one day live and work in another country and share her love of Christ. She viewed everyone as uniquely valuable, and purposefully invested herself in those she met.

Lauren loved God and had faith that her savior Jesus Christ had placed her at Virginia Tech with a mission and a purpose: to touch those she met with His love and to glorify Him. Her Christian faith is revealed in her own testimony: "I don't have to argue religion, philosophy, or historical evidence because I know Him. He is just as real, if not more so, as my earthly father."

Daniel Patrick O'Neil
Daniel Patrick O'Neil
A scientist and an artist, Daniel Patrick O'Neil of Lincoln, R.I., was working on a master's degree in environmental engineering.

Daniel earned a B.S. in civil engineering from Lafayette College, discovering his interest in the environment as an EXCEL Scholar. His 2005 studies of storm-water runoff and the effects of urban development on flooding led to his decision to pursue hydrology as a career. He worked as a junior engineer at Pare Engineering in Lincoln during the summer and over Christmas break 2006-07. At Virginia Tech, he worked as a teaching assistant in civil and environmental engineering.

Daniel loved music, theater, and politics and was active in drama productions and variety shows. At Lincoln High School, he competed on the cross-country and track teams and played music with his friends.

At Lafayette, he continued his involvement in art and sports, was vice president of the Arts Society, and was a member of the Marquis Players acting group. He lived in the Arts Houses, where he was an advisor and played guitar and piano, and he performed at block parties and reunions.

Daniel also liked running, Red Sox baseball, Hokie football and basketball, backpacking, biking, skateboarding, and traveling. He spent a semester in Brussels, Belgium, studying engineering, art history, languages, and culture and recently returned to visit his host family. He traveled to most Western European countries and planned to live in Dublin, Ireland, after graduation.

Daniel was exceedingly loyal to his friends and family, and his friends plan to produce a CD of his music as a fundraiser. Twenty-five of his songs can be heard at

Juan Ramón
Juan Ramon Ortiz-Ortiz
Juan Ramón Ortiz-Ortiz was born on Feb. 4, 1981, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Juan Ramón and Brunilda Ortiz.

Juan graduated from the Colegio Nuestra Señora de Belén, in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, where he was a member of the basketball, baseball, and track and field teams and the National Honor Society and participated in the Presidential Classroom of America.

In 2005, Juan completed undergraduate studies in civil engineering at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, where he was chapter president of the American Society of Civil Engineers and a member of numerous professional organizations. He was also part of the University Honor Board and a member of the Middle States Association for Colleges and Schools Curriculum Committee for the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico.

Juan and his wife, Liselle, both started the master's program in civil engineering at Virginia Tech in August 2006. He was a research and teaching assistant, and Professor G.V. Loganathan was his mentor.

Juan loved music and played the timbales for a family music group and also for a choir in college. His love for God also filled his life. He was involved in several Catholic activities throughout his school years.

Juan's family remembers him for his perseverance; dedication; patience; responsibility; and, most importantly, his smile. His life was characterized by his love for his family and his desire to become a better person each day. He lived his life with great intensity and changed the lives of everyone he met, filling them with love and happiness. He will be remembered forever for his passion for civil engineering, family, and life.

Minal Hiralal Panchal
Minal Hiralal Panchal
Throughout her life, Minal Hiralal Panchal strengthened her family with her childlike enthusiasm and infectious laughter. She is remembered for her kindness, her lifelong passion for architecture and the built environment, and her ability to focus on her goals and to dedicate herself to challenges.

Minal was born in Borivali in Mumbai, India, on July 17, 1980. Called "Minu" by her family, she developed a talent for watercolor painting, swam, wrote poetry, read modern fiction, and enjoyed soft rock and Indian Western fusion music.

Minal's fascination with complex and beautifully resolved structural solutions guided her academic career. In India, she was ranked in the top 10 of the state-level architecture entrance test and was ranked first at Rizvi College of Architecture in Mumbai, India, for her final-year design solution.

After graduating from Rizvi, Minal worked for two architects in Mumbai and then enrolled in fall 2006 in the M.S. program in architecture in Virginia Tech's School of Architecture + Design, where she focused on energy-efficient design solutions and advanced building structures. She also worked for VT STARS (Summer Training Academy for Rising Students).

At Virginia Tech, Minal connected with countless people due to her kind, uncomplicated nature. Her self-respect and ability to love radiated to the Virginia Tech community. Her friends and family carry her spirit with them.

"There are some people who need a year to be noticed, some who need a big achievement, and some conquer the world with power and fame," says a Virginia Tech friend. "There are others who change the world by simply being themselves, offering peace and happiness with their smiles--Minal, you were one of those."

Daniel Alejandro
Daniel Alejandro Perez
Daniel Perez, age 21, was a junior majoring in international studies. He was the son of Betty Cueva of Woodbridge, Va., and Flavio Perez of Peru.

Daniel left Peru with his mother and sister in 2000. In high school, he was active in sports and was a member of the National Honor Society. He graduated from C.D. Hylton High School with honors and attended two community colleges before enrolling in Virginia Tech in fall 2006.

Daniel could accomplish anything he put his mind to. He had a beautiful smile and was a great friend and a wonderful brother and son. He and his sister cared about their parents and wanted to see them happy. Daniel also enjoyed lavishing attention on his Bassett hound, Shiloh, and he displayed Shiloh's photo on his personal profile in an online social chat room.

He dreamed of being heard and making peace in the world and believed that God put everyone here to make a difference in someone's life. He loved to see his friends happy, and many of them viewed him as a role model. They said they were honored to have been able to call him "friend."

Daniel was nicknamed "Korki" because he acted goofy and did the most unexpected things. However, he always tried to make his parents and sister proud of him.

Wanting to bring people together and make the world peaceful led Daniel to choose to work in international services. He made his voice heard and encouraged the people around him to be better individuals. One of his friends says, "He was an amazing friend. I will never forget that."

Erin Nicole Peterson
Erin Nicole Peterson
Erin Nicole Peterson was born Aug. 17, 1988, in Fairfax, Va., to Celeste and Grafton Peterson. An only child, Erin was a dedicated "daddy's girl" whose parents considered her their "angel--their dewdrop from heaven."

Erin's early learning took place at Virginia's Appletree Private School and Merritt Academy. She graduated in 2006 from Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., where she was a member of the National Honor Society. She excelled in the classroom and exhibited great skill on the basketball court, serving as team captain her senior year.

Last summer, after being nominated by her high school principal, Erin worked as an intern with Rolls-Royce North America Inc. At the company's invitation, she was to have returned as an intern this year.

Erin's personality was a wonderful blend of warmth and magnetism anchored by a sound moral compass. She lived a life that was filled with joy, which she freely shared with others. In return, she attracted the admiration and respect of her peers and the complete adoration of her family.

A certified homebody, Erin loved watching movies and staying in with her family. She adored her maternal great-grandmother and had profound respect for her parents, whom she called every night. Faithful and spiritual, she firmly believed in the power of prayer.

Erin entered Virginia Tech in fall 2006, majoring in international studies. She had recently been elected co-president of EMPOWER, an organization dedicated to building self-esteem and confidence in young minority girls.

While Erin's passing has left a gaping hole in the hearts of her family and friends, her spirit and her legacy of excellence, optimism, leadership, and love will live forever.

Michael Pohle Jr.
Michael Pohle Jr.
Michael Pohle Jr., born in Newark, N.J., on Oct. 15, 1983, maintained a curiosity about everything around him and constantly ventured out to learn new things.

During Mike's early school years, he endured a painful experience--ridicule by others due to speech development issues--which he overcame and used to help shape himself into a wonderful and caring person.

Involved in various activities, Mike learned to play music, earned his black belt in karate, and participated in team sports. He played football and lacrosse at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, N.J., and played lacrosse at Virginia Tech. In his honor, the team wore his initials on their helmets when they played in the SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference tournaments in late April.

Mike would do anything for his teammates and his friends. He never lost his love for learning, either in the classroom or in life. He was set to graduate with a B.S. in biology at the 2007 Commencement.

Everyone who knew Mike will remember him for always helping people. He befriended those who felt they did not fit in or who were lost in the crowd with no one to turn to. It was instinctive for Mike to help; it was his calling.

That inner desire to learn as much as possible, be part of a team, and help as many people as he could are some of the key reasons he chose Virginia Tech. Whether it was his family, friends, classmates, teammates, the Phillies, the Buccaneers, or his beloved Hokies, Mike always looked out for them, as he still does.

That is how he would want to be remembered.

Julia Kathleen Pryde
Julia Kathleen Pryde
A dedicated environmentalist, Julia Kathleen Pryde of Middletown, N.J., chose biological systems engineering for both her 2006 B.S. and her master's degree. It was natural for her to care deeply for others, as evidenced by her trip to Ecuador and Peru to conduct research on water purity to help create a more sustainable form of agriculture that would help the poor.

She had planned to pursue a doctorate degree, become a professor, teach in college, and conduct research with a focus on creating pure water and sustainable agriculture in the Andes and Africa.

Julia, born on Sept. 7, 1983, was an avid swimmer, enjoyed soccer and softball, and had a great interest in music. A certified wild-land firefighter, she worked with the Student Conservation Association and was a member of a firefighting team deployed to fight fires in Arizona in 2005.

Julia conducted a restoration project with the Nature Conservancy of New Jersey and performed home assessments and GPS data collection for fire evaluation at the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

Julia was an officer of SEEDS (Seek Education, Explore, DiScover), an active supporter of those who resist the mountain-top-removal coal mining in Appalachia, and an active member of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Warm and accepting, Julia was open to diverse people, ideas, circumstances, and challenges. She was kind, generous, and brave. She embraced challenges, whether academic, social, ethical, physical, economic, or spiritual, all with enthusiasm, and she placed herself on a path of new trials, always in pursuit of a better world and a better self.

Mary Karen Read
Mary Karen Read
Mary Karen Read, a freshman majoring in interdisciplinary studies, was born on Jan. 30, 1988, in Seoul, South Korea. After living in several states, she settled in Annandale, Va.

At Annandale High School, she completed the International Baccalaureate Program; was a member of the National, French, and Tri-M Band honor societies; was president of the high school band; and was a clarinet section leader. She was also a member of Annandale's Homecoming Court, played lacrosse, and participated in winter color guard.

Mary was contemplating a career in elementary education. At Virginia Tech, she was a member of the concert band and Campus Crusade for Christ and had applied to be a Bible study leader. Her deep faith was evident in every aspect of her life.

Although she initially found the size of Virginia Tech daunting, Mary was working hard to assimilate, spending time on campus with hometown friends, her roommate, and a growing number of new acquaintances. She had recently started working in a campus dining hall.

Mary loved spending time with her family and friends, especially on trips to the mountains, the beach, and the lake, and was happiest when helping others, especially children. Renowned for her beautiful, constant smile and sweet personality, she relished her role of big sister to siblings Stephen (11), Patrick (4), Hannah (4), Brendan (2), and Colleen (10 months).

Mary is sadly missed by her father and stepmother, Pete and Cathy Read of Annandale; mother and stepfather, Yon Son Yi Zhang and Dr. Zhang of Palisades Park, N.J.; and her aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Reema Joseph
Reema Joseph Samaha
Reema Joseph Samaha was the youngest child of Joseph and Mona Samaha.

A lifelong resident of Centreville, Va., she embraced her Lebanese heritage, staying active in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and traveling to the Middle East, where she studied languages and cultures.

Reema had an exceptionally warm and close relationship with her parents and adored her brother, Omar, and her sister, Randa, with whom she shared friends, travels, and visits. She also loved spending time with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Reema maintained lifelong friendships with diverse people who were drawn to her openness, cheerfulness, creativity, and wit. As a child, she enjoyed performing in comical video productions with neighborhood friends, was named to three youth soccer all-star teams, and began studying Tae Kwon Do.

As Reema matured, she pursued her passions for dance and theater. She performed on the Westfield High School dance team, was a Cappies critics' choice as the featured dancer in Westfield's award-winning production of "Fiddler on the Roof," and belly-danced her way to victory in the school's talent show. She was a member of Westfield's Improvisation Group, earned rave reviews for her lead performance in "Arsenic and Old Lace," and appeared in "Oklahoma." At Virginia Tech, she was a member of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble, the Hill and Veil Middle Eastern Dance Group, and the Cedars of Lebanon Club.

Reema blended her joy of life with seriousness of mind, graduating summa cum laude from Westfield, where she was a member of the National, French, and Science honor societies, and earning a 4.0 GPA at Virginia Tech, where she intended to major in urban planning.

Waleed Shaalan
Waleed Shaalan
Waleed Shaalan, age 32, came to Virginia Tech in August 2006 as an international doctoral student in engineering. Originally from Zagazig, Egypt, he had no family members in the United States, yet he quickly became an essential member of the Blacksburg Muslim community.

Among those mourning his death are his two roommates, Fahad Pasha and Irfan Waseem, who saw him as a loving older brother, cook, and academic and spiritual mentor.

Waleed began his Ph.D. program in Egypt, but when Virginia Tech offered him an assistantship, he decided to continue his studies in Blacksburg. Following in the footsteps of his father, Waleed was a dedicated and passionate student of civil engineering.

Though he had a hectic schedule from juggling classes, research, and teaching-assistantship responsibilities, he always made time for the people around him. He was known for his broad smile and the friendly wave with which he greeted everyone.

"Waleed was the simplest and nicest guy I ever knew. We would be studying for our exams and he would go buy a cake and make tea for us," says Pasha.

Pasha was the last person to have spoken to Waleed. "He was studying for an exam the morning of the incident. It was about 4 a.m. when I last saw and spoke to him. We were talking about how amazing it would be when he brought his wife and son to Tech at the end of the summer. I could never have imagined that in six hours he'd be gone forever."

Waleed Shaalan left behind Amira, his wife of 3 years, and his one-year-old son, Khaled.

Leslie Geraldine
Leslie Geraldine Sherman

Leslie Geraldine Sherman, a junior in the Virginia Tech Honors Program majoring in history and international relations, was an inspiring young woman who could "do it all" and excel.

Leslie loved photography, visiting historical sites and museums--particularly those relating to early American History--reading, running, and traveling throughout the United States (especially to Seattle) and around the world. She made trips to Argentina and Ecuador that she funded herself and had recently made trips with her mother to Jamaica and London. Her next area of study was to be Russia, where she was scheduled to spend the first summer semester in a six-week program.

In addition to superior academic achievements, Leslie felt a driving need to help those who were less fortunate, often volunteering her personal time and giving of herself. Since childhood, she had donated half of what she had to people in need. She was a student volunteer at a retirement home, a Special Olympics coach at West Potomac High School, a tutor, cherished daughter, devoted older sister, beloved granddaughter, admired cousin, loyal friend, and trusted master of her dog, Winnie.

Last fall, Leslie ran the Marine Corps Marathon in four hours and two minutes and was looking forward to running future marathons. She worked as a student supervisor in Virginia Tech's West End Market.

Leslie wanted to continue serving the less fortunate by joining the Peace Corps upon graduation. She had then hoped to pursue a career with the U.S. Department of State.

She had immeasurable integrity, courage, and strength, and she was a gift to all who knew her.

Maxine "Max" Shelly
Maxine "Max" Shelly Turner
Maxine "Max" Shelly Turner was an honors student from Vienna, Va., ready to graduate with a degree in chemical engineering. She was brilliant, beautiful, and talented and excelled at everything she committed herself to, including swing dancing, Tae Kwon Do, schoolwork, violin, and her favorite video game, Zelda.

She talked to herself while playing video games, stuck her tongue out for photographs, and sang aloud while doing homework with her headphones on. She often could be found in her pajamas and bunny slippers, sitting on the living room floor and watching cartoons, particularly Spongebob, while doing chemical engineering work. These endearing quirks are a large part of what made Max so loveable.

She was also motivated and ambitious. At Virginia Tech, she saw the need for a professional sorority for female engineers and helped found a chapter of Alpha Omega Epsilon, serving as chair of both community outreach and professional life.

She was also in the Hypatia class that encouraged the university to expand Hypatia--the Women in Engineering Learning Community--from a one-year to a two-year program, and she volunteered for the Relay for Life, the Big Event, and the animal shelter.

Max loved her family and was famous among her peers for actually talking to her parents practically every day--and enjoying it! She regaled her friends with tales of her younger brother, Anthony, and his many accomplishments.

Fiercely independent, she earned her own money and helped with all of her expenses.
Everyone who knew Max will miss her greatly, but sadder still is the fact that those who didn't know her will never have the pleasure of doing so. She was an exceptional person.

Nicole Regina White
Nicole Regina White
Nicole Regina White, the daughter of Mike and Tricia White, was born Aug. 23, 1986. A graduate of Smithfield High School, she had one brother, Evan.

A junior at Virginia Tech, Nicole was majoring in international studies with a minor in political science.

Nicole was a giving person who, even in high school, completed emergency medical training and served as a volunteer with the Smithfield, Va., Volunteer Rescue Squad. She was active in the YMCA and worked as a lifeguard as well as a swimming instructor. While at Virginia Tech, she was an active volunteer at both the local animal shelter and the battered women's shelter.

Nicole loved her friends and her friends loved her. She was the type of person who would not judge a person by his or her outward appearance but looked at the person's heart. She wanted to know people as they really were, not as they appeared.

While living in Smithfield, Nicole faithfully attended Nansemond River Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va., and worked in the outreach program, taking the message of the Gospel and Christ's love to people in the local area.

"Her family wants everyone to know that Nicole loved the Lord, loved people, and loved working with children. They have suffered a tremendous loss," says the Rev. Tim Piland, senior pastor of her church.

These brief biographies were prepared by or in conjunction with the families.
For additional biographical information, go to

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