Partahi Mamora Halomoan ("Mora") Lumbantoruan
Class: PhD Student (fourth year)
Major: Civil Engineering (Geotechnical)
Hometown: Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia
Previous Education: BS (1997) and MS (2000), Civil Engineering (Parahyangan Catholic Univ)
Died along with Prof. Loganathan and 8 other students in Advanced Hydrology class.
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Ph.D. Candidate Wanted to
Teach in Native Indonesia
Partahi "Mora" Lumbantoruan was a tall man from a military family in Indonesia, but was known more for his shy demeanor and work ethic.
Lumbantoruan, 34, was killed Monday in Norris Hall.
He came to Virginia Tech in early 2004 seeking his master's degree. Marte Gutierrez, who served as his academic adviser, said Lumbantoruan was a quiet student who was focused on furthering his education.
"He wanted to get a Ph.D. and go back to teach in his country," Gutierrez said.
Soon after he arrived, Lumbantoruan met up with Soonkie Nam, 33, a grad student from South Korea. The two shared an interest in civil engineering, and because they were five to seven years older than most students, they became friends.
"He was very shy and calm," Nam said. "He had a lot of thoughts inside. He was very sincere. He was like my older brother."
The two spent most of their time studying in the library. Lumbantoruan, still new to the United States, frequently looked to Nam for advice on dealing with cultural differences.
"He told me he was not accustomed to traditional American behavior," Nam said. "He'd ask me how to act so he did not make others uncomfortable."
After earning his master's degree, Lumbantoruan began to seek his Ph.D. and received his own desk and chair in a room in the civil engineering department.
One day, Nam said, another student came along and took Lumbantoruan's desk without asking.
"The one guy just occupied Mora's desk," Nam said. "Mora told me he has to move to the other desk. I told him, 'Mora, complain about that officially and take the desk back.' Then Mora told me, 'Oh, it's OK. There are several desks there, and I can just move to the other one. If I ask the guy to move out he might be uncomfortable.' "
Rhondy Rahardja knew Lumbantoruan as one of his 14 fellow Tech students from Indonesia.
"He had a military background and was a really straight person," Rahardja said. "He looks like a really tough guy, but if you know him he was a really sweet caring person. He would help you no matter what."
The Indonesian ambassador called to inform Lumbantoruan's family early Tuesday, according to Riaz Saehu, press secretary for the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
His father, Tohom Lumbantoruan, is a retired Army officer.
"This is the destiny I have to face," he told Indonesian news Web site Detikcom.
"Since media ran reports of the shooting rampage, I have been praying the Lord for my son's soul to keep," he said. "I kept waiting a phone call from my son. But it was a phone call from the Indonesian ambassador in the U.S. that came to me, telling my son was one of the victims."
The family has requested the body be transported back to Indonesia for a funeral.
Rahardja said that Sunday he saw Partahi Lumbantoruan at Virginia Tech's international street fair, where the group of Indonesian students had been selling food. As Rahardja drove Lumbantoruan home, they celebrated their success. Rahardja suggested the group go out to eat this week.
"He was like, 'Oh yeah, that'll be fun.' The sad part is we did get together yesterday, but it was not what I expected."
"It was everyone minus him."
-- Mason Adams (Roanoke Times, 4/18/07)
York Times Profile:
Partahi Lumbantoruan, or "Mora," as he was known among his friends, was a 34-year-old aspiring teacher who left Indonesia for Virginia Tech three years ago to pursue a doctoral degree in civil engineering.
He was two semesters away from achieving that dream -- a dream that included returning to Indonesia to begin teaching -- when he was killed in Norris Hall on Monday.
A native of Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra, Mr. Lumbantoruan earned his master's degree in civil engineering from Parahyangan University in Java and arrived in the United States in 2004. His father told The Associated Press that his family had sold property and cars to help Mr. Lumbantoruan pay the $8,000 a semester he needed for tuition.
"We wanted him to succeed," said his father, Tohom Lumbantoruan, a retired military officer, "but he met a tragic fate."
At Virginia Tech, Mr. Lumbantoruan was one of 16 Indonesian students. Rhondy Rahardja, the president of the Indonesian Students Organization, said that because of his family's military background, Mr. Lumbantoruan was "super-disciplined."
He could almost always be found studying in the library, his head in a book and a maroon Virginia Tech polo shirt tucked neatly into his khaki pants.
"But once you knew him well, he was bright and funny," Mr. Rahardja said. "Mora loved to cook. He was the grill master at our street fair, cooking beef and chicken satay, which we sold to raise money. Like his father, who became a professor, he wanted to teach."
With his family so far away, Mr. Lumbantoruan spent much of his free time bonding with the members of the student group � and in a sense they became his kin.
"We were his family here," said Mr. Rahardja, who took the Indonesian students to clean up his apartment after his death.
Earlier this week, as the students were combing through the apartment, they discovered something about the buddy they called Mora that he had apparently kept a secret: he loved war films.
"He had 30 films, all about war," he said, "From 'The Thin Red Line' to 'The Alamo.'"
Indonesian planned to take Ph.D. home
As a foreign student in his mid-30s working toward a doctorate in civil engineering, Partahi Lumbantoruan was a nose-to-the-grindstone workaholic.
His family had struggled to send him to the USA in 2004 to further his education.
"We were planning to sell a car and some land to pay for his remaining studies," his father, retired army officer Tohom Lumbantoruan, told the Jakarta Post. "The plan was not realized, and he is already gone."
"Mora" to his family and friends, the 34-year-old, Indonesian-born graduate student was a year away from achieving his goal: to take his Ph.D. home and teach others. He was planning to join the engineering faculty at Parahyangan Catholic University in Bandung, where he had received his earlier degrees and lectured.
"It was a very big loss for Parahyangan University," said Anak Agung Banyu Perwita, a political scientist who knew Lumbantoruan.
"He was easy-going and had a lot of friends," Banyu Perwita said.
At Virginia Tech, he befriended other foreign students who often had more trouble with course work because of language difficulties.
"He was like my brother," said Soonkie Nam, a fellow graduate student. "He usually stayed in his office or in the library and tried hard to study. He never got angry. He was always smiling and had positive thinking all the time."
Washington Post Profile:
Through the numbness of grief, Rhondy Rahardja managed to chuckle, and so did his friend Pupung Purnawarman. The two found themselves standing in the most immaculate apartment either had ever seen yesterday -- three small rooms near Virginia Tech that a fellow student and Indonesian national, Partahi Lumbantoruan, had called home.
He is gone now. He was 34 and had been in the United States for about three years, working toward a doctorate in Tech's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
"The way he kept his books, his clothes -- everything so neat, so organized," said Purnawarman, who had never visited his friend's apartment before. Now he and Rahardja were packing Lumbantoruan's belongings in boxes and suitcases so the Indonesian Embassy can ship them to his parents in North Sumatra's capital city of Medan.
Rahardja laughed wistfully. "Everything is on place," he said. "Just like the military. He has all his socks lined up next to each other, maybe for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday."
That was Lumbantoruan, a man who valued order and discipline, according to his friends. They said he grew up in a military family -- his father and stepmother were both officers in Indonesia's army -- and he came to Blacksburg with a seriousness of purpose.
In North Sumatra, his father, Tohom Lumbantoruan, told the Associated Press that the family sold property and cars to pay for their unmarried son's tuition at Tech, where he received a master's degree in civil engineering before beginning a doctoral program.
"We tried everything to completely finance his studies in the United States," the father said. "We only wanted him to succeed in his studies, but . . . he met a tragic fate."
In Blacksburg, when he wasn't around -- and even when he was -- his friends liked to kid him. "Yes, sir!" they would say in responding to his opinions, which he almost always voiced with authority. "Yes, sir! Whatever you say, sir!" And they would laugh, and so would he, despite himself, his friends recalled.
And the clothes he wore -- practically a uniform. Rahardja chuckled again at the memory. "Always the same thing, the same kind of thing," he said. "He always wore a polo shirt, very neat, no wrinkles. Khaki pants. Always khakis. And the polo shirt was always tucked in. Always. And he wore his VT hat."
Friends said he aspired to be a university professor in the United States.
They last saw him Sunday, at the university's International Street Fair. The Indonesian Students Association, of which Rahardja is president, had a booth, serving satay, barbequed chicken and beef on skewers. "He was the grill-master," Rahardja said of Lumbantoruan. Afterward, Rahardja drove him home.
They chatted about an association get-together, which had been planned for this Saturday. "We were saying we were going to a restaurant and have some fun," Rahardja recalled. "He was like, 'Oh, yeah, it's going to be fun.'"
Yesterday, Rahardja was at his friend's apartment, seeing the inside for the first time.
And allowing himself to smile.
"Khakis," he said. "He had lots and lots and lots of khakis."
-- Paul Duggan, The Washington Post
Chronicle of Higher Education Profile:
Partahi M.H. Lumbantoruan worked hard all his life — first to get to Virginia Tech from his home in Indonesia, and then in hopes of returning to teach there.
The son of a mid-level officer in the Indonesian army, Mr. Lumbantoruan, 34, was a dedicated student and a caring friend. Known as “Mora” around the civil-engineering department, he was a quiet man who spent more time in the library than in the bars. A fellow student in the department, Soonkie Nam, describes him as shy.
“I am also a kind of shy guy and didn’t have many native friends here,” says Mr. Nam, who is Korean. “But he was really thoughtful and very kind, and he really knew how to listen, and how to make others comfortable.”
Mr. Lumbantoruan, whose mother died when he was in elementary school, was “a nice, diligent kid,” says his brother, Bindu, who lives in Indonesia. Although he struggled in certain classes, he made up for it with a powerful work ethic. He wrote his master’s thesis on soil liquefaction during earthquakes, and last year decided to pursue a Ph.D. in hydrotechnology.
“I tried to dissuade him from taking a Ph.D. because of the time it would take and all the effort,” says his thesis adviser, Marte S. Gutierrez. “But he told me, ‘Dr. Gutierrez, I really need this, this is what I want to do.’”
On the day he was killed, Mr. Lumbantoruan was in an advanced hydraulics class. When he was shot, his adviser says, he had laid himself over another student, protecting that person from gunfire.
— Erik Vance, Martha Ann Overland, David Cohen
Virginia Tech Magazine
Partahi M. Lumbantoruan, a Ph. D. student in civil engineering at Virginia Tech, was calm, caring, and talented. He was known and loved in his neighborhood as someone who was always ready to help others.
A native of Indonesia, he was born on April 26, 1972, and earned his B.S. in 1997 and his master’s degree in 2000, both in civil engineering, at Parahyangan Catholic University.
“Mora,” as he was known to friends and family, came to America in January 2004 to earn his doctorate. He became a member of the geotechnical family at Virginia Tech and of the Indonesian community, which is like a big family. He enjoyed going out for lunch, attending football games, grilling saté for the international street fair, taking road trips, and engaging in spiritual and intellectual discussions. Although he was quiet and shy, he was quick to join in lively political discussions, especially those relating to Indonesian political affairs.
His smile was contagious and he radiated positive energy that attracted friends and cemented his friendships. He loved Virginia Tech and he devoted himself to Tech traditions and the football team.
He was more than a colleague and friend; he was a man who will always be admired for his patience, wisdom, and compassion for others. Whenever his friends were stressed, he was able to put a smile on their faces and help them not to worry about little things. He deeply cared about the happiness of others and faced each day with a positive attitude. He was the type of person who would put others’ needs before his own and was the son, grandson, nephew, cousin, uncle, husband, and father everyone should have.
Mora will be missed by all who knew him. His love, his positive energy, his sincerity, and his example will help his family and friends through this pain. Selflessly, in his final moments on earth, he sacrificed his own life to save that of another—a true hero. If Mora were here today he would ask us to keep our chins up and 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.”
Through the Virginia Tech Foundation, the Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan Memorial Scholarship 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.