Professor Liviu Librescu

Age: 76

Professor of Engineering (Engineering Science and Mechanics Dept.)

VT Faculty Member Since: 9/85

Hometown: Ploieşti, Romania

Educational Background: BS/MS, Aerospace Engineering (Polytechnic Univ of Bucharest); PhD, Fluid Mechanics (Academy of Sciences of Romania)

Married with Two Sons

Died along with 1 student in his Solid Mechanics class.


Audio/Video Remembrances

CNN video: Hero professor remembered

Fox News video: Virginia Tech Hero

Sky News video: Interview with Joe Librescu, about his father

YouTube video: Virginia Tech Hero Prof. Liviu Librescu Funeral in Israel

Audio Remembrances From NPR (visit NPR's VT Remembrance Page to listen):

Ishwar Puri on Liviu Librescu: 'He Was a Giant' as a Scholar

Lionel Librescu Talks About His Father

Personal Remembrances From Family/Friends/Colleagues

Prof. Liviu Librescu Memorial at Facebook

In Memory of Liviu Librescu at Facebook

From Virginia Tech's Dept of Engineering Science and Mechanics:

Professor Librescu died as he lived, devoted to his students and to his profession. Professor Librescu loved his position as professor. A prolific researcher and wonderful teacher, he devoted himself to the profession, solely for the love of it. His son, Joe, says it best: "He was a scientist who did not work for money, but for the pleasure he got from his occupation." Always available for students, a caring teacher and devoted advisor to graduate student researchers, his last act was to sacrifice himself to save the students in his classroom. He blocked the door and ordered his students out the window. He saved all but one.

Professor Librescu survived the Holocaust and earned his Ph.D. from the Academy of Sciences in Romania (1969) where he also rose to academic prominence. He had a thirst for freedom. He immigrated to Israel from Romania during the communist regime with the help of then Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Fortunately for us at Virginia Tech, he chose to spend his sabbatical (1985) in our Engineering Science and Mechanics Department, where he stayed and continued his research in aeroelasticity, thermal stresses and in composites. He recently published a book (Thin-Walled Composite Beams: Theory and Application, with O. Song, Springer, 2005) and has published more journal articles and conference papers than anyone else in the field.

He was a devoted colleague. He was always ready to talk about research with anyone; he was always available to students. His attitude towards the profession was based on total devotion to knowledge. He would help anyone. We will continue to remember him as one who had a kind word to say and was thoughtful. He was selfless to the end.

We will miss him greatly and fulfill our mission with greater resolve in order to honor his memory. He will not be forgotten.

-- His colleagues and friends from Virginia Tech. We are Virginia Tech. We will remain ESM.

Submit your personal remembrance for posting here (please include your name and relationship).

Newspaper Remembrance Stories

Holocaust Survivor Blocked Shooter, Letting Students Flee
(Roanoke Times Profile)

Caroline Merrey is one of the students who jumped.

It was a frightening whirlwind. An average Monday in professor Liviu Librescu’s solid mechanics class that in a blink turned from reviewing homework to the unmistakable pop of gunshots outside her Norris Hall classroom.

In the flurry of students dialing 911 on cell phones, taking cover on the floor and twisting open second story windows to escape, Merrey, 22, glanced over her shoulder before jumping.

“I just remember looking back and seeing him at the door,” the Virginia Tech senior recalled of her professor. “I don’t think I would be here if it wasn’t for him.”

By Tuesday morning, newspapers from Washington, D.C., to Jerusalem shared the story of how Librescu — a 76 year-old Holocaust survivor — blocked his classroom doorway from a gunman while his students leapt to freedom.

“It wouldn’t amaze me he would do such a thing,” fellow engineering professor Muhammad Hajj said. “He’s that kind of person, willing to take care of others, protect others.”

Hajj, the engineering faculty organization president, was not inside Norris Hall on Monday — a classroom building turned crime scene where the majority of the day’s 33 killings took place. He has no firsthand knowledge of what his colleague did that day.

But Hajj remembers meeting Librescu 15 years ago — and many of the days in between. He always greeted Hajj with “good morning,” “good afternoon” or “how’s your day going?” When he spotted Hajj in his office across the hall, Librescu always smiled.

Since Librescu’s death, Hajj has heard from colleagues at campuses around the world, expressing condolences for the survivor who died violently on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

His funeral, the Jerusalem Post reported, is planned to be held in Israel. Librescu — who moved from Israel to Virginia with his family in 1986 — was highly-respected by students, Hajj said.

It’s been reported that many students e-mailed Librescu’s wife since the shooting, telling how he blocked the gunman.

This semester was the first Merrey had Librescu as her professor. She thought he was a nice man — very concerned about his students. When she spoke to him, he was always casual.

When she jumped from his classroom window Monday morning, Merrey aimed for a bush. She hit the shrubbery, flipped and landed on her back, knocking the wind out of her.

She was later hospitalized — rescue workers thought she broke her back. There, she found out from friends about her professor’s fate.

“You never know what to expect out of people in situations like this,” she said.

As students left their thoughts online at sites such as Facebook, one word was used over and over : “hero.”

— Erinn Hutkin  (Roanoke Times, 4/18/07)

New York Times Profile:

Liviu Librescu, 75, a senior researcher and lecturer in engineering, was a Holocaust survivor. He had immigrated to Israel from Romania with his wife Marlina, also a survivor, in 1978. He was an expert in aeronautics at Tel Aviv University and the Haifa Technion before moving to the United States in 1984.

The couple's elder son, Arieh, lives in the town of Ra'anana, near Tel Aviv. Joe, the younger son, splits his time between the United States and Israel, where he was when news of his father's death arrived.

According to media accounts quoting students, Mr. Librescu and the class heard shooting in a nearby room. The students said their professor blocked the door to prevent the gunman from entering while some students took cover underneath desks and others leaped out from windows.

Reached by telephone in Ra'anana today, Ayala Librescu, one of his daughters-in-law, said the family "had no time to deal with the loss" and turned down requests for interviews. She confirmed that family members were making plans to fly to America Tuesday night and that they would be bringing Mr. Librescu's body back to Israel for burial.

Earlier today, Joe Librescu told Ynet, the website of the Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot: "I understand from friends that my father was a hero. By blocking the door with his body he saved all the students who were in the classroom." Joe Librescu studied at Virginia Tech from 1989 to 1994, according to Israeli media.

Professor who 'did not fear death' likely saved students
USAToday Profile

An Israeli Holocaust survivor died shielding his students from a mass murderer on the day that Jews who were mass murdered during World War II are remembered each year.

Liviu Librescu, 76, was an internationally renowned professor of aerospace engineering at Virginia Tech.

Librescu's son, Joe, who lives outside Tel Aviv, said his father "barricaded the door and blocked the shooter from entering. …This was typical of him. He did not fear death and at all times tried to do the right thing."

Librescu was apparently shot by a bullet that pierced the classroom door. His heroism gave students time to climb out the window, on the second floor of Norris Hall, said Sean Beliveau, a friend of the family who lives in Blacksburg, Va.

Beliveau said students have been e-mailing Librescu's widow, Marlena, to tell her of Librescu's courage

Joe Librescu said his father was sent to an internment camp near Focsani, Romania, when he was 10.

After World War II, Librescu returned to the Romanian capital, Bucharest, where he studied mechanics and aviation construction. He was fired from Romania's aerospace agency when his employers discovered he was Jewish and a supporter of Israel, his son said. In 1978, Librescu was allowed to emigrate to Israel, where he taught at Tel Aviv University and the Technion in Haifa.

Librescu moved to Virginia Tech in 1985 for what was to be a one-year sabbatical but stayed after receiving a full-time position. A specialist in composite structures and aeroelasticity, he received many awards from around the world, including grants from NASA.

"His research has enabled better aircraft, superior composite materials, and more robust aerospace structures," said Ishwar Puri, head of Virginia Tech's department of engineering science and mechanics.

Charles Camarda, a NASA astronaut who got his doctorate in aerospace engineering from Virginia Tech, called Librescu "a brilliant professor. … He was also a gentleman … very statesmanlike, very articulate, just a pleasure to work with."

Rabbi Marvin Hier, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, which combats anti-Semitism and other prejudice, said, "Destiny came knocking on his door. Any survivor of the Holocaust knows how helpless he felt. This man decided he would not let this act of evil occur. He was not going to be a bystander."

Joe Librescu called his father's death on Holocaust Remembrance Day "symbolic."

"Many circles closed along with his tragic death," the son said. "He died in the city he called home, where he loved what he did and what he stood for, and in front of his students, to whom he had dedicated his entire life."

Librescu's body was being flown to Israel for burial Thursday at a cemetery outside Tel Aviv.

Washington Post Profile:

Liviu Librescu, a professor of engineering and a Holocaust survivor, is being called a hero after students reported that the 76-year-old man barricaded the door to his classroom long enough for them to jump to safety from the upper-story windows of Norris Hall.

Librescu was killed by the gunman, who eventually forced his way into the classroom, according to his son, Joe Librescu, who was interviewed by CNN and the Associated Press. Joe Librescu said his father's students have e-mailed him their accounts of his last minutes.

A Romanian who survived the Holocaust, Librescu became an opponent of communism and moved to Israel. He later immigrated to the United States. Librescu taught at Virginia Tech for 20 years and had an international reputation for his work in aeronautical engineering.

"His research has enabled better aircraft, superior composite materials and more robust aerospace structures," Ishwar K. Puri, the head of the Engineering Science and Mechanics Department, told the AP.

Colleagues said they will miss him.

"He was a very pleasant, jolly fellow who enjoyed joking around a little with the staff," said Wayne Neu, an ocean engineering professor. "An everyone's-friend sort of guy."

Neu said Librescu "was always one with a smile."

He was a joyful man, according to his son. "He had passions for music, for sports, for hiking, for travel. He was a passionate person."

He was killed one day after Holocaust Remembrance Day was observed in the United States and on the day it was observed in Israel.

"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Joe Librescu told the AP in a telephone interview from his home outside Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping out."

-- Kirstin Downey, The Washington Post

Chronicle of Higher Education Profile:

Liviu Librescu, 76, was born a Jew in Romania and, as a young teenager during World War II, survived the Holocaust. So it was a cruel irony that April 16, the day the Virginia Tech engineering professor was slain protecting his students, was Holocaust Remembrance Day.

According to colleagues, Mr. Librescu barricaded the door of his classroom in the university’s engineering building, blocking the entry of (the shooter) who massacred 30 people in the building. Mr. Librescu’s actions are credited with buying time for most of the 15 students in the room to jump out of the room’s second-story window and escape, before (the shooter) shot him dead. (One student was killed in the classroom and two others were wounded there.)

Family members and colleagues say Mr. Librescu’s heroic actions were in keeping with his strong commitment to his students and his work.

“This was his life — the research and his students,” says his daughter-in-law, Inbar Librescu. “His son Joe said to me, ‘I am not surprised. I expected my dad to do this. This is who he was.’”

Engineers from around the world are also mourning Mr. Librescu. The professor of engineering science and mechanics was known as a leading theoretician in the design of strong, lightweight materials used in aircraft and ships. His work had received support from NASA and the Office of Naval Research.

“I’ve been receiving e-mails from people all over the world — from Italy, Russia, Armenia, Korea — who knew him as one of the leaders,” says Pier Marzocca, an assistant professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering at Clarkson University, who worked for Mr. Librescu at Virginia Tech as a postdoctoral researcher.

Mr. Librescu reached his position at Virginia Tech after remarkable efforts to overcome adversity earlier in his life. During World War II, his family faced persecution in Romania, which was allied with Nazi Germany.

He later received a Ph.D. in fluid mechanics in Romania and found work as a researcher in a government institute. He smuggled a scientific book that he wrote out of the country so it could be published in the West, in the Netherlands. He was fired in the 1970’s after he repeatedly sought permission to emigrate to Israel. The government eventually gave him and his family an emigration permit, thanks to a program under which Israel paid Romania in exchange for letting Jews leave.

Mr. Librescu became a professor at Tel Aviv University. He came to Virginia Tech in 1985 on sabbatical and stayed for good. His two sons, who live in Israel, graduated from Virginia Tech, one of them with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Mr. Librescu had maintained an active schedule of teaching, publishing, and speaking at and organizing international scientific meetings. He also served on the editorial boards of seven scientific journals, published his most recent book last year, and wrote more than 200 scholarly papers.

“If you met him, you would know that he would never think of retiring,” Mr. Marzocca says. “Seventy-six was like 40 for him.”

Despite having established his academic reputation, he continued to work most nights and weekends, with classical music one of his few diversions, says Leonard Meirovitch, an emeritus professor who worked in Mr. Librescu’s department at Virginia Tech. “He was driven,” Mr. Meirovitch says.

Mr. Librescu’s colleagues at Virginia Tech are devastated, says Muhammad R. Hajj, a professor in his department whose office is on the same floor.

“I’ll miss the way he says good morning, good afternoon, he smiles all the time,” Mr. Hajj says. “He talks to you, and he’s interested in what’s going on with you. It will be hard to forget that way.”

—Jeffrey Brainard and Matthew Kalman

Librescu 'cared only about science'
The Jerusalem Post

Tel Aviv University engineering and mechanics Prof. Ya'acov Aboudi sent an e-mail Tuesday morning to his longtime friend and former colleague Prof. Liviu Librescu in his Virginia Tech office after hearing of the savage shooting attack on campus.

"I knew he used to come late to work, so I was sure he was not involved," said Aboudi. "But then 15 minutes after I sent the message, a mutual friend called to say Liviu was dead."

The 76-year-old scientist, who held the door to his classroom shut so his students could escape the murderer by climbing out the window, was shot and killed by the assailant. Librescu made aliya with his wife, Marlene, a dentist, in 1978 from Bucharest after working in the city's aeronautics institute. Working under Nicolae Ceaucescu's fascist regime, Librescu was forbidden to have any contact with sources outside Romania, but he defied the ban, continuing to publish scientific articles secretly.

After moving to Israel, he worked at Tel Aviv University for five years, but was disappointed.

"He wanted to write many books and have a lot of students, but he didn't have so many at that time. He went on sabbatical with his wife and two sons to Virginia and then remained there," recalled Aboudi.

Librescu "didn't even learn how to drive; he just cared about his science."

Because he did not have long years of tenure and since there is no mandatory retirement age in US universities, said Aboudi, Librescu continued to work into his mid-70s.

"We were in touch, and I even visited him about five years ago in Virginia. He invited me a year ago to write an article for a special issue of a scientific journal."

Librescu "loved Israel very much," even though he lived in the United States for more than two decades, Aboudi said. "He had a house in Virginia that was damaged by a hurricane. One of his sons lives in the US and the other came back to live in Ra'anana."

"The university town is small, very quiet and peaceful. I don't think it has more than a handful of policemen. Nobody thought there would be any violence there," Aboudi said sadly.

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich

Apr. 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Hero Professor Liviu Librescu Funeral in Israel
(As reported on YouTube - unknown original source)

Liviu Librescu (August 18, 1930 -- April 16, 2007) was a Romanian-born Israeli professor, whose most recent position was Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Virginia Tech, Virginia, USA. His major research fields were aeroelasticity and unsteady aerodynamics. He was shot and killed in the Virginia Tech massacre while holding off the gunman at his lecture hall entrance so his students could escape.

Liviu Librescu was born in 1930 to a Jewish family in the city of Ploieşti, Romania. During World War II, his family was interned in a labor camp in Transnistria and then transferred to the ghetto of Focşani. He survived the Holocaust to become an accomplished scientist in Romania.

Librescu studied Aerospace Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, graduating in 1952 and continuing with a master at the same university. He was awarded his Ph.D. in Fluid Mechanics in 1969 at the Academia de Ştiinţe din România.

From 1953 to 1975 he worked as a researcher at Institute of Applied Mechanics, Institute of Fluid Mechanics and Institute of Fluid Mechanics and Aerospace Constructions of Academy of Science of Romania.

Under the Romanian communist regime at the time, he was unable to move to Israel (make Aliyah). Eventually, the government permitted him to leave, but only after a direct request was made by the Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin to President of Romania Nicolae Ceauşescu.

Librescu emigrated to Israel in 1978. From 1979 to 1986 he was Professor of Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering at Tel-Aviv University.

From 1985 until his death, he served as Professor at Virginia Tech. Librescu received many academic honors during his work at Virginia Tech, serving as chair or invited as a keynote speaker of several International Congresses on Thermal Stresses and receiving several honorary degrees. He was elected member of the Academy of Sciences of the Shipbuilding of Ukraine and Foreign Fellow of the Academy of Engineering of Armenia. He served as a member on the editorial board of seven scientific journals and was invited as a guest editor of special issues of five other journals. According to his wife, no other Virginia Tech professor has ever published more articles than Librescu.

Liviu Librescu was among the thirty-two people who were murdered in the Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007. He was killed during a class in the Norris Hall Engineering Building by a student. Librescu held the door of his classroom shut while (the gunman) was attempting to enter it; although he was shot through the door, he was able to prevent the gunman from entering the classroom until his students had escaped through the windows.

A number of Librescu's students have called him a Hero because of his actions, with one student, Asael Arad, saying that all the professor's students "Lived Because of Him". Librescu's son, Joe, said he had received e-mails from several students who said he had Saved their Lives and regarded him as a Hero whilst many newspapers also reported him as the Hero of the massacre. His death came on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day, also known as Holocaust Memorial Day. Librescu is survived by his wife, Marilena (née Semian), and his sons Joseph and Lionel. According to the family wishes, the body will be flown to Israel, where he will be buried.


Hero Virginia Tech professor buried
Associated Press (via Yahoo News)

A Holocaust survivor gunned down trying to save his students from the Virginia Tech shooting rampage was buried in Israel Friday to the sobs of his grieving family.

Engineering Professor Liviu Librescu's body was wrapped in a prayer shawl according to Jewish tradition, and his two sons intoned the Kaddish, the Hebrew prayer for the dead.

A representative of the Romanian government posthumously awarded the Romanian-born Librescu the country's highest medal for his scientific accomplishments and heroism. Romanian officials laid a wreath at the grave.

"I walked through the streets today with my head held high because I have such a father," his elder son, Joe, said.

Librescu, a 76-year-old aeronautics engineer and lecturer at the school for 20 years, died trying to barricade the door of his Virginia Tech classroom to keep the gunman away from his students.

"It's so painful for me to think of your last moments, in which you suffered. I'll never know what went through your mind, but I hope very much that wherever you are, you will watch over your family," Librescu's weeping wife, Marlena, said.

Librescu's family said his last moments were recounted in numerous e-mails from students after the attack.

"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Joe Librescu told The Associated Press after the massacre. "Students started opening windows and jumping out."

As the students jumped, Librescu was shot dead, one of the 32 victims in the worst shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

A child in Nazi-allied Romania during World War II, Librescu was deported along with his family to a labor camp in Transnistria and then to a central ghetto in the city of Focsani, his son said. According to a report compiled by the Romanian government in 2004, between 280,000 and 380,000 Jews were killed by the Romanian regime during the war.

Librescu worked as an engineer at Romania's aerospace agency under the postwar Communist government, his son recounted, but his career was stymied in the 1970s because he refused to swear allegiance to the regime. He was later fired when he requested permission to move to Israel.

After years of government refusal, according to his son, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin personally intervened to get the family emigration permits. They moved to Israel in 1978.

Shmulik Moyal, 60, a friend and former neighbor of Librescu, described Librescu as a serious, scholarly man.

The family left in 1985 for Virginia, where Librescu took a position teaching mathematics and engineering at Virginia Tech.

--Ben Winograd

Friday, April 20

Virginia Tech Magazine Profile (5/07)

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 earned his undergraduate aeronautical engineering degree from the Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest and completed his Ph.D. at the Institute of Fluid Mechanics, Academy of Science of Romania. He achieved academic prominence, but in order to have his papers on aerodynamics published anywhere except at the academy during Communist rule, he had to work in secrecy and—at great risk—smuggle papers to publishers in other countries.

Dr. Librescu and his wife wanted to leave Romania for Israel, but obtaining the requisite visas was a difficult and lengthy process. After three years—and with the help of the government of Israel—the family finally was allowed to immigrate in 1978.

After serving as a professor for seven years at Tel-Aviv University, Dr. Librescu accepted a one-year position as visiting professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM). The family decided to settle in Blacksburg in 1985, and Liviu became one of Virginia Tech’s most respected educators and researchers in the field of aeronautical engineering.

The roster of his publications, awards, and honors is remarkably long and international in scope. Among recent honors were his selection as a member of the Board of Experts of the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Scientific Research, and his election as the Foreign Fellow of the Academy of Engineering of Armenia.

“Professor Librescu died as he lived, devoted to his students and to his profession,” said Dr. Ishwar Puri, head of the ESM department at Virginia Tech. “He loved his position as a professor. A prolific researcher and wonderful teacher, he devoted himself to the profession, solely for the love of it.”

“It is a question of pleasures,” Dr. Librescu said in 2005, when asked why he continued to work so hard. “It is not a question of organizations or calculations. If I had the pleasure to do this, then I will put time aside to do this. It is personal freedom. If you are limited, then you miss the freedom. And I—I would like to be fluid. I would like to be free as a bird and fly everywhere.”

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.”

Memorial Faculty Support Fund

Through the Virginia Tech Foundation, the Liviu Librescu Memorial Faculty Support Fund has been established at Virginia Tech in his memory. For more information and/or to donate to this memorial fund, see VT's Hokie Spirit Memorial Funds page.