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University's civil and environmental engineering department uses art and renovated space to honor victims of April 16, 2007


   

The painting by Robert Tuckwiller is unveiled. The painting by Robert Tuckwiller is unveiled.


BLACKSBURG, Va., July 6, 2009 – The summer 2009 dedication of renovated space on the second floor of Patton Hall, home to several of the civil and environmental engineering students who lost their lives on April 16, 2007, as well as their professor G.V. Loganathan, "was the culmination of two years of effort in the department to honor the victims," said William A. Knocke, civil and environmental engineering professor and department head.

On June 26, a formal dedication of the renovated area was held. A private ceremony for family members and survivors of the tragedy featured the unveiling of two commissioned paintings.

One was a portrait of Loganathan, painted by Leslie Roberts Gregg, owner of Phoenix Nest Studio of Blacksburg, Va. This portrait hangs in the new GV Loganathan Library, part of the renovation.

The second piece of art is a scene along the New River created by Robert Tuckwiller, another renowned artist and owner of Tuckwiller Gallery of Newport, Va. Tuckwiller’s painting, called “The Journey”, was designed to honor all who were in Loganathan's classroom that day.

According to Tuckwiller, the commemorative piece represents the ten individuals lost that day in Loganathan’s class on five canoes on the New River near Radford, Va. “The Journey”, the largest painting Tuckwiller has ever completed, now hangs in the new conference room in the renovated location.

A formal dedication ceremony was held later in the day in the Hancock Auditorium. Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger and other invited guests offered comments as part of the ceremony.

The Loganathan library will reflect his “passion for teaching,” Steger said, “and his thirst for knowledge.”

David Mongan, past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), who also spoke, had provided in 2007 a Book of Condolences from numerous ASCE national leaders that is now on display in the new conference room. It contains dozens of messages to the Virginia Tech community.

A former Virginia Tech student who now holds his doctorate in civil engineering, Joshua Joseph, traveled from Atlanta, Ga., to share his reflections as a student, a colleague, and now a consulting engineer. His emotional, moving words to the crowd of several hundred brought tears to many eyes. He recalled April 16, 2007, “as a watershed moment” that forever changed the “world as we know it.”

“The scope of the project far exceeded our original expectations,” acknowledged W. Sam Easterling, civil and environmental engineering professor who is assuming the role of department headship from Knocke beginning with the 2009-10 academic year. He credited Lynn Eichhorn, the executive director of the University Planning, Design and Construction Services with taking “this bull by the horns. She and her team solicited donations of material, equipment and labor from the variety of contractors, suppliers, and vendors.

“She contributed her staff’s time for planning, design and construction services,” Easterling added, saying the civil and environmental engineering department owed “Lynn and her team of professionals within her office a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

Donations of equipment, furniture, materials, and/or labor for the Patton Hall Memorial Project came from the following vendors: State Electric Supply, USM Modular Furniture, Varnery Inc.; AireCo Supply Inc.; Mitsubishi Electric, The Mohawk Group, Miller Electric Company, Harris Contractors Inc.; and Creative Glass and Mirror Inc.

The civil and environmental engineering Tributes Committee members who decided on how to honor their friends and colleagues were: students Teresa Chen, Sherri Cook, Mike Mobile, and Chris Strock; staff members Shelia Collins and Merry-Gayle Moeller; and faculty representatives Jeff Connor, Randy Dymond, Vinod Lohani, and Mark Widdowson.

In addition to the renovation, the civil and environmental engineering department established an annual remembrance speaker series and the formal marking and dedication of the survey course located near the Virginia Tech Duckpond.

With the latter, the civil and environmental engineering department has now formalized the establishment of five markers in honor of Loganathan and four of the graduate student teaching assistants lost that day: Brian R. Bluhm of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Matthew Gregory Gwaltney of Chesterfield, Va.; Juan Ramón Ortiz-Ortiz of Bayamón, Puerto Rico; and Waleed Mohamed Shaalan of Zagazig, Egypt. A plaque explaining these markers will hang at the Duckpond adjacent to the survey course.

Other members of the civil and environmental engineering family honored with the renovation and who were lost that day were: Jeremy Michael Herbstritt of Bellefonte, Pa.; Jarrett Lee Lane of Narrows, Va.; Partahi Mamora “Mora” Halomoan Lumbantoruan of Jakarta, Indonesia; and Daniel Patrick O’Neil of Lincoln, R.I.