BLACKSBURG, Va., April 19, 2010 – The street in front of the new U.S. Embassy compound in Bucharest, Romania, will be named after Virginia Tech Professor Liviu Librescu, who sacrificed his own life to save his students on April 16, 2007.
U.S. Ambassador to Romania Mark Gitenstein said, “Professor Librescu will live on in our memory every day as we pass by this street named in his honor.”
Naming the street after Librescu was the initiative of former U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Taubman who says he was profoundly moved by the professor’s courage. Taubman stated: “While he was a leader in the school of engineering at Virginia Tech, Professor Liviu Librescu was first and foremost a humanitarian who put the lives of his students above his own. His name will always be a blessing and a tribute to those who perished on April 16th, 2007.”
On April 18, 2007, then-President George W. Bush honored Librescu at a memorial service held at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “That day we saw horror, but we also saw quiet acts of courage. We saw this courage in a teacher named Liviu Librescu. With the gunman set to enter his class, this brave professor blocked the door with his body while his students fled to safety. This Holocaust survivor gave his own life so that others may live.”
Romanian President Traian Basescu awarded Librescu posthumously, on April 18, 2007, the National Order Star of Romania in rank of Grand Cross, the highest Romanian honor, in recognition of the heroic sacrifice of his life to save his students at the Virginia Tech campus. In a message of condolences to the President of the United States, on April 17, 2007, the Romanian President expressed, on behalf of the people of Romania, solidarity with the grieving families of those who perished in the Virginia Tech tragedy, and with the American people.
Librescu was born in Ploiesti, Romania. After Romania allied with Nazi Germany in World War II, his father, Isidore Librescu, was deported to a labor camp in Transnistria, now in the Republic of Moldova, and later his family was deported to a ghetto in the Romanian city of Focsani. As a boy, he was interned in a labor camp in Transnistria, but he refused to speak about that and those who knew him said that he was extraordinarily modest.
After surviving the Holocaust, Librescu was repatriated to communist Romania where he studied aerospace engineering at Bucharest Polytechnic University, graduating in 1952 and then studying for a master's degree at the same university. He received a Ph.D. in fluid mechanics in 1969 at the Academy of Science of Romania.
From 1953 to 1975 he worked as a researcher at the Bucharest Institute of Applied Mechanics, and later at the Institute of Fluid Mechanics and the Institute of Fluid Mechanics and Aerospace Constructions of the Academy of Science of Romania. His career stalled in the 1970s because he refused to swear allegiance to the Romanian Communist Party. When Librescu requested permission to emigrate to Israel, the Academy of Science of Romania fired him.
After years of government refusal, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin personally intervened to get the Librescu family an emigration permit by directly asking Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu to let them go. They moved to Israel in 1978.
From 1979 to 1986, Librescu was professor of aeronautical and mechanical engineering at Tel Aviv University and taught at the Technion in Haifa. In 1985, he left for the United States where he served as professor at Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering in its Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics from Sept. 1, 1985, until his death.
Librescu wrote several scientific books and numerous articles and received many honors and awards.
This story was provided by Jeri Guthrie-Corn (mailto:Guthrie-CornJ@state.gov), Deputy Chief of Mission , U.S. Embassy Bucharest.