AP Photo/Vega family
A family photo showing Virginia Tech student Juan R. Ortiz with his wife last year.

The April 16 massacre of 32 students and faculty at Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University in Blacksburg, Va., better known as Virginia Tech, took a heavy toll on the university’s civil and environmental engineering department. A star professor and numerous students died.

Randel L. Dymond, a department associate professor, confirmed April 19 “in between funerals this morning” the deaths of veteran professor G.V. Loganathan, who was teaching Advanced Hydrology, as well as those of a doctoral candidate, six graduate students and one undergraduate. Dymond said a biological systems engineering graduate student taking the class was also killed.

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  • Dymond says that Loganathan’s class in Norris Hall, an engineering school building, was the first of five entered by the shooter, senior Cho Seung-Hui. “Everyone was surprised about that, but it was closest to the steps,” he adds.

    Four other students in the class survived with injuries that “are no longer life threatening,” adds Dymond, who says he has talked to survivors but could not “share any more of their stories.”

    Dymond says the loss of Loganathan is a heavy blow.


    Loganathan, 51 and a Virginia Tech professor since 1984, was “the star of the department, a natural teacher, courteous, kind, caring and humble,” says Dymond, a nine-year faculty member who knew him well. “He was the epitome of what a college professor should be and a model for us all.” Dymond adds that the department is now determining how best to honor his memory.

    Loganathan, whose teaching specialties included hydrology, water resources systems and hydraulic networks, earned an M.Tech. degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur in 1978 and a Ph.D. from Purdue University in 1982. He received numerous university and industry teaching awards and was active in the American Society of Civil Engineers and its Environmental and Water Resources Institute. A note on EWRI’s website says Loganathan’s contributions to the two groups “were great.”

    AP/Casey Templeton
    Candle-lit shrine on Blacksburg campus honors slain students and faculty members.

    On its website April 19, the department acknowledged the huge response to the tragedy. “The outpouring of sympathy and support from students, alumni, and others in this terrible time of tragic loss has been uplifting and very much appreciated. We ask all of you to keep the injured and the families of the slain from our Advanced Hydrology class, and all of the others lost at Virginia Tech this past Monday morning, in your thoughts and prayers.” ASCE, EWRI, the American Society for Engineering Education and the university’s College of Engineering also have condolence notices posted on their websites.

    Dymond says the tragedy has “decimated” the department, which sponsored a “healing session” on April 18 and is now “scrambling with how to get classes back up” when Virginia Tech is set to reopen April 23. The department has 45 faculty, and about 600 undergraduates and 300 graduate students, says Dymond.

    According to Dymond and published reports, the slain students are:

    • Waleed Shaalan, 32, a graduate student from Egypt who was set to bring his family to the U.S. this summer and whose father also is a civil engineer. Dymond confirms that Shaalan, while gravely wounded, saved a fellow student’s life by distracting the gunman, a 23-year-old South Korean English major. “Yes, Waleed is a hero, according to a survivor, who asked me to get it out,” says Dymond.
    • Brian Bluhm, 25, a graduate student in water resources who was set to defend his master’s thesis this summer and start a new job in Baltimore.

    • Jeremy Herbstritt, 27, a graduate student with undergraduate degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology from Penn State.

    • Matthew Gwaltney, 24, a graduate student with an interest in river restoration who also earned his B.S. degree at the school.

    • Jarrett L. Lane, 22, of Narrows, Va., a senior on a special scholarship who had been his high school valedictorian

    • Partahi M. Lumbantoruan, 34, a doctoral student who came to the school three years ago from Indonesia after his father sold possessions to pay for tuition.

    • Daniel O'Neil, 22, a graduate student and teaching assistant who studied urban development and regional watersheds while earning his undergraduate degree from Lafayete College.

    • Juan R. Ortiz, 26, a graduate student from Puerto Rico.

    • Julia K. Pryde, 23, a graduate student in biological systems engineering who was studying watershed management

    “They were all bright lights, wonderful human beings,” says Dymond, who says he was unable to share further personal information.

    The department plans a memorial service on April 27, with details to be posted when finalized. Details on a memorial fund for families “of our lost colleagues” will also be posted. The latest details on other memorial services are available on the College of Engineering website www.eng.vt.edu or on the university’s www.vt.edu.

    The department adds that condolence cards can be sent to:
    Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering
    200 Patton Hall (MC 0105)
    Virginia Tech
    Blacksburg, VA 24061

    Virginia Tech has established the following website for those wishing to post condolences: http://rosa.hosting.vt.edu/index.php/memorial.