2006

Michael A. Plumer '06

Michael A. Plumer, 21, a senior at WPI majoring in chemical engineering, died Saturday, March 18, 2006, from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident in Kensington, N.H.

Born on Sept. 16, 1984, in Newton, Mass., the son of John A. Plumer and Catherine Chandick, he grew up in Exeter and Kensington, N.H., and graduated from Berwick Academy in South Berwick, Maine.

At WPI, Plumer pursued a passionate interest in the environment and environmental protection through his required academic projects. For example, to complete his Interactive Qualifying Project, which requires students to explore the intersection of science, technology, and society, he worked with a team of students to assess possible contamination of the Huay Sai watershed in Suan Phung, Thailand, and provide recommendations for sustainable management and the protection of public health.

For his major project in chemical engineering, he was working with Assistant Professor Jennifer Wilcox to help understand the complex chemistry of the flue gases from coal-fired power plants. "The results from his work," Wilcox says, "will lead to cleaner emissions from coal combustion by preventing trace elements from being released into the environment. Michael was really excited about this work and the chemical modeling it was based upon. Later this year, he will be listed as a co-author of a journal article based on this research."

Plumer was also working on a humanities project based on the themes outlined in The Reenchantment of the World by Morris Berman, which challenged the traditional Western idea that scientists can only understand the world by distancing themselves from it. "The possibility of working with a student on a topic based on a highly sophisticated work in critical philosophy-a topic that lies at the heart of my own academic and personal interests-was very exciting," says John Sanbonmatsu, assistant professor of philosophy, the advisor for the project.

"He obviously cared deeply about this topic, and his care and concern motivated his drive to discover the truth," Sanbonmatsu adds. "Michael had a deep well of feeling and erudition to draw on. What depth of soul he had--genuinely deep thoughtfulness and integrity. I have known few students at WPI who have taken ideas as seriously as he did."

In addition to his parents, Plumer is survived by a sister, Annie Plumer of Kensington, N.H., his paternal grandparents, Hazel and Alexander Plumer of Portland, Maine, and several aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Donations may be made in Michael's memory to Greenpeace International , 702 H Street SW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20001, or to the First Unitarian Society of Exeter , 12 Elm Street, P.O. Box 627, Exeter, N.H., 03833.

Roger J. Schafer III '05

Roger J. Schafer III, 22, drowned on Saturday, July 29, 2006, while swimming with friends in the Ammonoosuc River in Crawford's Purchase, N.H. A native of DeWitt, N.Y., he had recently completed the requirements for a bachelor of science degree in computer science and was working as a software engineer for FM Global in Providence, R.I.

Known as Jack to his many friends, Schafer graduated in 2001 from Jamesville-DeWitt High School in DeWitt and attended Le Moyne College in Syracuse for two years as a communications major before transferring to WPI.

He is described as a free spirit (he wore only sandals, even in winter, the Syracuse Post-Standard noted) who enjoyed adventures and road trips and living life to the fullest. Spontaneous, creative, and outgoing, he made friends easily, and left a lasting impression on everyone he met. His official obituary describes him as "a unique individual whose behavior could only be explained as, 'well that's Jack.'"

At WPI, he played on the ice hockey team, a sport he had also played in high school and at Le Moyne, and was a member of Alpha Phi Omega (APO), the national co-ed service fraternity. An interest in theatre (he had worked on many productions at Le Moyne) led him to participate in WPI's New Voices festival; he also appeared with Kilroy, the improvisational comedy troupe, and was involved in a number of other activities.

For his Interactive Qualifying Project, he worked with three other students to evaluate the economic impact of Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI) and the life sciences industry, in general, on Central Massachusetts. The project abstract notes that "for MBI to have maximum effect, the possibility of renovation or expansion was evaluated." MBI recently signed an agreement with WPI to open a new incubator facility in WPI's Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center.

Schafer's Major Qualifying Project in computer science was focused on intelligent tutoring systems, the research interest of assistant professor Neil Heffernan, the project's advisor. With fellow student Jonathan Walsh, Schafer developed a way to create, manage, and assign problem sets in a tutoring system. The tools were intended to expand the capabilities of the ASSISTments system, an intelligent tutoring system that helps eighth-grade mathematics students prepare for the MCAS test.

Roger Schafer is survived by his parents, Roger and Elizabeth, of DeWitt; sisters Melissa (Richard) Owczarzak of Buffalo, N.Y., and Angela; brothers Thomas and Kevin; grandparents Roger and Mary Ella Schafer of Adena, Ohio, and James and Kay Tomczak of Burlington, Vt.; and many aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Contributions in memory of Roger Schafer may be made to the Outdoor Program, Hiawatha Council BSA, 113 Twin Oaks Drive, Syracuse, NY 13206.

 
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