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. Author of: 4 monographs; 21 chapters in books; 288 articles appeared in Peer-Reviewed Journals; 250 papers included in the proceedings and 190 lectures at national and international conferences and congresses; 40 invited lectures to various Universities of the USA and in more than 10 foreign countries. Among more recent honors were: The 1999 Dean's Award for Excellence in Research, Virginia Tech; Selected as a Foreign Fellow of the Academy of Engineering of Armenia, 1999; Honorary Doctorate Recipient of the Title of Doctor Honors Causa of the Polytechnic of Bucharest, Romania 2000; Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the Shipbuilding of Ukraine, 2000; Frank J. Maher Award for Excellence in Engineering Education, 2005.
“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.”
A number of scholarships were offered in the name of Liviu: Virginia Tech, ESM Department, established the Liviu Librescu Scholarship; it was already awarded to 2 students for 2008; Stockton University in New Jersey named a room in the Holocaust Resource Center, honoring the memory of Liviu; The Holocaust Remembrance Project initiated by the law firm Holland & Knight awarded the top essay contest to Xinyi Li from Duluth, Georgia, in honor of Virginia Tech University Professor and Holocaust survivor Liviu Librescu.
Liviu received following awards: Shofar of Freedom Award 2007; Inspire Awards 2007 in the fight against hate and intolerance (ADL 2007); “Medal of Valor” 2007 presented by The Simon Wiesenthal Center; AARP the Magazine Inspire Awards 2007; ''Most Inspiring Person of 2007”; Tribute to Librescu at The 68th Annual Awards Dinner of the NCFJE 2008; New York City Comptroller honors the memory of a Virginia Tech massacre victim, Liviu Librescu on Friday, November 14, 2008; Facilitator Award honoring posthumous the life and actions of Professor Librescu 2009.
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.”