2009

WPI Remembers Longtime Trustee and Friend Peter Levine

WPI lost a great friend with the passing of Peter H. Levine, MD, on Dec. 18, 2009. Levine was a dedicated supporter of the Institute and served as a trustee for nearly two decades.

Levine's career and civic contributions spanned many decades and numerous areas of accomplishment. He was known as a physician, a popular teacher, a nationally acclaimed medical researcher, and a healthcare executive. Levine played a key role in a series of mergers that led to the creation of UMass Memorial Healthcare, preserving many medical jobs in the area and laying the foundation for one of the key contributors to the regional economy. He served as the organization's first CEO, overseeing seven hospitals, 12,000 employees, and an annual operating budget of $1.4 billion. Upon Levine's retirement as CEO in 2002, the UMass board of trustees honored his service and contributions as a clinician and research hematologist by naming a new 60,000-square-foot facility the Peter H. Levine Cancer Center.

Levine became a WPI trustee in 1990, and served on six committees over his tenure as a trustee. He was also a member of the President's Circle and the Presidential Advisory Council. It was Dr. Levine who encouraged President Dennis D. Berkey to apply to lead Worcester Polytechnic Institute. "We became very good friends," said Berkey. "He was always an excellent mentor and counselor. Once in a while, a person comes along who's an exemplar for how you want to live your life. Peter was one of those people."

To name just a few of Dr. Levine's professional honors, he was a five-time recipient of the Excellence in Clinical Education Award at the UMass Medical School, a three-time winner of the House Officer Award for Distinguished Medical Educator at Worcester Memorial Hospital, and two-time winner of the Distinguished Teacher Award at Tufts Medical School. In recent years, Levine served as a senior advisor at BDC Advisors in Boston, a leading healthcare consulting firm, where he helped forge new and productive relationships between hospital systems and their medical staffs.

In addition to his significant career achievements, Levine was a generous community leader, and an effective advocate for state and national healthcare issues. In 2001 he received the Citizen of the Year Award from the Worcester Rotary Club, an honor that recognized his many years of service to such organizations as Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, United Way of Central Massachusetts, American Red Cross, Worcester County Music Association, and Worcester Business Development Association. He was also active with the National Hemophilia Foundation, Massachusetts Hospital Association, and Governor's Commission on Healthcare Reform.

Perhaps Levine will be remembered most for his personal role as a mentor to many at WPI, in the medical profession, and in the Worcester community. His character, wisdom, good humor, and integrity were infectious, and he took the time to guide others in their careers and community service.

Dr. Levine leaves his wife, Catherine, three sons, and five grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Greater Worcester Community Foundation (370 Main Street, Suite 650, Worcester, MA 01608) or the First Unitarian Church (90 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01608).

 

Photo by Dan Vaillancourt; used with the permission of Greater Worcester Community Foundation.

Norman Sondak, WPI's First Computer Science Professor

Norman Sondak, the first person to teach computer science at WPI, died in San Diego, Calif., on Nov. 5 at the age of 78. Sondak joined WPI in 1968 before the Institute offered a degree in the emerging discipline (the master's program was started the following year and the undergraduate program in 1970).

Sondak also headed the Worcester Area College Computation Center (WACCC), which was started in the lower level of Gordon Library to serve the computing needs of WPI and several other local colleges. It was a time when computers were large, room-filling mainframes, like WPI's IBM 360/40, and programs were painstakingly typed on punch cards. The "Hackers of the '70s," created by WPI alumni who learned to love computers during that decade, notes that Sondak fondly described the era as "the days of wooden computers and iron programmers."

Sondak left WPI in 1978 to become chairman of the Information Systems Department at San Diego State University, where he "taught computer basics to thousands of students until he retired in 2005," according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

“He was a pioneer in information systems and computer science,” Bruce Reining, chairman of Sondak's department in San Diego said in the Union Tribune. “He was a brilliant academic among his peers. He was doing research in the (computer) field before it was fully developed. He was very bright and insightful.”

Sondak graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School and City College of New York. He earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering at Northwestern University in 1954 and was planning on a career in that field until he joined a group of fellow graduate students and professors who were experimenting with early computers at Yale University, where he earned a doctorate in chemical engineering.

Having discovered his true passion, he went to work for RCA on computer applications and the development of large-scale computer systems. He oversaw the installation of a computer system for advertising giant J. Walter Thompson and ended up joining the agency, where he became vice president in charge of computer operations. He left that post to join WPI.

Sondak is survived by Eileen, his wife of 55 years, two sons, a daughter, and four grandchildren. The family suggests that memorial contributions may be made to Kids’ Turn San Diego, Parkinson’s Association, United Jewish Federation, Jewish Family Service, Meals on Wheels, and the Cancer Fund.

Roy Seaberg '56, Former Admissions Director; Member of Plan Committee

Roy Seaberg '56, former director of admissions at WPI and executive secretary to the faculty committee that created the WPI Plan, passed away in Delray Beach, Fla., on Oct. 1, 2009, at the age of 75. Seaberg retired in 1996 after a 34-year career at WPI, much of that spent in the undergraduate Admissions Office.

After earning a BS in mechanical engineering at WPI, Seaberg served as a field representative and area advisor for Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, did a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, and was a manufacturer's rep for a maker of hydraulic equipment before joining WPI in 1962 as assistant secretary of the WPI Alumni Association.

In 1969, he moved the Admissions Office as assistant director. He was promoted to associate director in 1973 and director of admissions in 1980. Four years later he was given the opportunity to help expand WPI's student recruitment efforts more globally as director of special admissions, the post he held until his retirement.

In that capacity, Seaberg traveled the world to help spread the Institute's reputation and, with the help of local alumni, attract strong students. "It was my job to spread the story of WPI around the globe," he told the WPI Wire in 1996. That year, WPI enrolled students from 63 different counties, a measure of his success.

Among the memories Seaberg looked back upon most fondly was his service as executive secretary to the faculty planning committee charged with reworking WPI's approach to undergraduate education at the end of the 1960s. The product of the committee's two years of work was the WPI Plan, the project-based curriculum that reinvented WPI's historic commitment to theory and practice for a new age. "The birth of the Plan heralded the fact that WPI was at least leaving the Victorian Age," he joked in the Wire article.

In addition to his administrative responsibilities, Seaberg found time to be active in Skull, WPI's senior honorary society, and to coach the WPI golf team to two undefeated seasons between 1963 and 1970. (An avid golfer, he continued to play until about a year ago, when poor health forced him to give it up). Seaberg was also an active alumnus who served for a time as president of the Worcester County Alumni Association and as a longtime member of the nominating committee.

Barbara and Peter Horstmann

Peter H. Horstmann '55, Devoted Alumnus and Emeritus Trustee

Peter H. Horstmann '55, trustee emeritus and devoted friend of WPI, died August 19, 2009. A public memorial service is being planned for the fall.

A WPI trustee from 1984 to 2007, when he was elected to emeritus status, Pete Horstmann served as vice chair of the board, along with Ronald Zarrella '71, from 1995 to 2000. Over the years, he played key leadership roles in a number of major initiatives at the university as a member of the board's Executive, Academic Planning and Student Affairs, Development, and Physical Facilities committees. He continued his active involvement in WPI developments as an emeritus trustee.

A generous supporter of WPI, Horstmann in 1990 became a member of the Presidential Founders, which recognizes supporters whose lifetime giving to WPI equals or exceeds the $100,000 founding gift of John Boynton. He was also a charter member of the Alden Society and a lifetime member of the President's Circle, which honors alumni and friends who have committed to supporting WPI at a leadership level.

As a student athlete, Horstmann was co-captain of the 1954 football team, one of only three WPI gridiron teams to complete an undefeated season. For the rest of his life, WPI athletics remained especially close to his heart. He organized and served as chairman of the WPI Athletic Hall of Fame and was inducted himself in 1986. Most recently, he was instrumental in raising funds to renovate Alumni Field, a major project that included a new artificial turf field, track, press box, and lighting.

"Pete was passionate in his commitment to WPI, especially athletics and student life issues. He and his wife, Barbara, were regulars in the stands at WPI sporting events. We will miss our friend Pete," says President and CEO Dennis D. Berkey.

As a student at WPI, Horstmann was known as a leader who gave all of his talents and energy to any initiative he undertook. He served in student government and was selected to Skull, the senior honorary society. He was elected permanent president of the Class of 1955. After earning his BS in mechanical engineering (he also held an MBA from Western New England College), he joined the Hamilton Standard Division of United Aircraft Corporation (now United Technologies) as a mechanical engineer. From 1956 to 1964 he held engineering positions with Kaman Aircraft Corp. in Connecticut.

In 1964 he returned to Worcester as engineering manager of Coppus Engineering, later becoming vice president and part owner of the firm. He left Coppus in 1987 to become CEO and board chairman of Cutler Associates Energy Management Inc., also in Worcester. In 1989 he was named vice president and general manager of Webstone Inc., a division of Goddard Industries Inc. Horstmann completed his career as director of human resources for the city's daily newspaper, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Horstmann was an active and enthusiastic member of the WPI Alumni Association. He was elected secretary of the Hartford Chapter in 1958 and served as vice president and treasurer until his return to Worcester in 1964. He renewed his involvement with the association on his return to Worcester, serving as chairman of the Alumni Fund Board and vice president and president of the association. He was also a longtime chair of the Citations Committee, which each year selects outstanding alumni and friends for recognition with major alumni awards. Horstmann himself was singled out for recognition in 1980, when he received the WPI Herbert F. Taylor Alumni Award for Distinguished Service.

Also active in the Worcester community, Horstmann served as director of the Worcester Children's Friend Society and a trustee of the Worcester Science Center (now the EcoTarium) and Consumers Savings Bank. In addition, he was a member of the Worcester Area Chamber of Commerce, Worcester Young Businessman's Association, American Management Association, Worcester Art Museum, the Society for Advancement of Management, and the Tatnuck Country Club.

Jim Jackson

James L. Jackson Jr., Former Director of WPI's Computer Center

James L. "Jim" Jackson Jr., who directed WPI's computer operations for more than three decades, passed away on June 27, 2009, after a long illness. Jackson's WPI career spanned the era of the mainframe computer and age of the global Internet, and he oversaw a service that grew to become one of the most important elements of WPI's academic and administrative life.

Born in New York City and raised in Connecticut, Jackson attended Marshall University for a year before enlisting in the U.S. Army, serving in the Signal Corps. He ultimately returned to Marshall, where he earned a degree in business administration.

He worked for West Virginia Steel Company and Arthur Wright's Men's Clothing store in West Virginia before moving to Connecticut, where he held positions with IBM and Connecticut Life Insurance Company. In 1967, he joined WPI as director of the Worcester Area College Computation Center (WACCC), which filled part of the basement in the brand new Gordon Library (in the area now occupied by the library's archives and special collections). Established with a $260,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, WACCC and its one mainframe computer provided data processing support to WPI and, at one time, to as many as 50 other colleges and universities around the Northeast.

Mainframe computers continued to be the backbone of the university's computing resources for many years, but in the 1990s the personal computer revolution began in earnest and the computer center, renamed the College Computer Center (CCC; those initials today stand for Computing and Communications Center), began to grow to accommodate and support the rapidly expanding role of computing in all aspects of education and work at WPI.

The construction of a campus data network began in the late 1980s, and the network has been upgraded and extended multiple times since then to support the explosion in the speed and volume of data transmissions at WPI. By the time Jackson retired in 1999, the university was firmly enmeshed in the Internet age, desktop computers or laptops were on almost every desk, hundreds of computers hummed in labs across campus, and emails, files, and streams of data flew around campus through hundreds of miles of copper and fiber-optic cable. With such an expansive computer and networking infrastructure, WPI needed, as the WPI Journal put it, "a small army of dedicated men and women to maintain it, to train people to use it, and to help out when things go awry." Under Jackson, the CCC had become just that.

A resident of Northborough for the past 42 years, Jackson computerized the water billing systems in Northborough and Shrewsbury during the 1970s and not only served as a coach for the Northborough Little League Hawks, but was instrumental in computerizing the team schedules. He had a lifelong passion for opera and enjoyed tennis, basketball, golf, and cheering on the New England Patriots. He leaves his wife of 54 years, Anne Jackson, three sons, six daughters, and 12 grandchildren. He was predeceased by a brother and a sister.

Memorial donations may be made to the American Stroke Association [www.strokeassociation.org], Metro Worcester, 20 Speen Street, Framingham, MA  01701.

Bourgault

Roy F. Bourgault '42, Professor Emeritus, Mechanical Engineering

Roy F. Bourgault '42, emeritus professor of mechanical engineering, died May 22, 2009, in Hampstead, N.C., at the age of 89. He was a member of the WPI faculty from 1957 until his retirement in 1985. He also served two terms as secretary of the faculty and, for three decades, was the official photographer for WPI’s track and field events.

Born in Worcester, Bourgault earned a BS in mechanical engineering from WPI and went to work for American Steel & Wire (later U.S. Steel) just as America entered World War II. He served in the Army Air Corps during the war, then worked as a metallurgist while earning a master's degree from Stevens Institute of Technology.

As a WPI faculty member, Bourgault became a recognized expert in the field of failure analysis, contributing professionally and as an educator to the American Society for Metals and the Materials Division of the American Society for Engineering Education. In the 1970s, when WPI floated the idea of eliminating the football program to save money, Bourgault rallied more than a thousand supporters who convinced the Institute to keep the program going. He was inducted into the WPI Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987 as an unsung hero of WPI athletics.

In the Worcester community, Bourgault was a leader in the Chestnut Street and United Congregational churches and sang with the church choirs and the Worcester Chorus. He held prominent volunteer positions in the Mohegan Council of the Boy Scouts of America (earning the Silver Beaver Award), was a corporator of Colony Retirement Homes in Worcester, and was listed in Who's Who in America. He served as president of the Worcester Photo Color Club and was a 3-star exhibitor in the Photographic Society of America.

An avid whittler and wood carver , he had been active in the Cape Fear Woodcarvers Club in his adopted home state of North Carolina, serving as secretary-treasurer for the past two years, and was a member of the Garage People model ship-building club. He received numerous awards for his birds and other carvings in the Silver Arts Festival state-wide competitions. He was also a member of the Bell Choir of Topsail Presbyterian Church.

He leaves three sons, a daughter, a brother, his dear friend of the last few years, Ruth M. Best, six grandchildren, and several nephews and nieces. He was pre-deceased by his wife, Betty Mae (Arp) Bourgault, and a sister.

Memorial services will be held at Topsail Presbyterian Church in Hampstead, N.C., at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 30, and at United Congregational Church, 6 Institute Road, Worcester, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 13.

Memorial donations may be made to Lower Cape Fear Hospice of Wilmington, N.C., or to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society .

Carl H. Koontz, Professor Emeritus of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Carl H. Koontz, professor emeritus of civil engineering at WPI, died Wednesday, May 13, 2009. Koontz joined the WPI faculty in 1952 as an assistant professor of civil engineering and mathematics. He was promoted to associate professor in 1956, and in 1957 he became a full professor and head of the Civil Engineering Department. At 33, he was the youngest person to serve as a department head at WPI. He retired from WPI in 1986.

Born in Portage, Fla., Koontz served in the U.S. Army in the Pacific Theater during World War II, participating in the New Guinea and Luzon campaigns and the liberation of the Philippines. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering at the University of Illinois. In addition to serving on the faculty at the University of Illinois, he consulted on the design of blast resistant structures for the Armour Foundation and designed bridges for the state of Illinois before joining the WPI faculty.

As a registered professional engineer, he was a consultant to the Department of Defense, state and local governments, and architectural and engineering firms across the country and in Germany and Asia. He worked on civil, structural, and watershed and drainage area issues as well as disaster planning and environmental impact. He was also involved in civil defense and protective construction.

He was an advisor during the planning and design of dozens of notable structures in Worcester, including Doherty High School, Forest-Grove Junior High School, and the Assumption College Library. He was a special investigator for the state into the collapse of a bridge at College Square during the construction of I-290, and later consulted on a replacement bridge.

He served three terms on the Worcester City Council, 16 years on the Planning Board, and several years on the License Commission. He also contributed his professional expertise to countless city committees and served on the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission, the Worcester Urban Mass Transit Steering Committee, and the Worcester Consortium Environmental Studies Task Force.

Upon retirement from WPI, he became code commissioner for the city of Worcester, taking over from Norton Remmer ’60. He immediately found himself in the public eye when he announced at a standing-room-only meeting at City Hall that he would suspend the issuance of building permits until an ordinance change imposing a limited building moratorium was advertised. Despite a backlash from builders, Koontz hung tough.

“Blessed with an infectious sense of humor and a long string of professional credentials,” as the WPI Wire noted in 1986, he received numerous citations and awards throughout his career.

He leaves his wife, Arline F. (Murphy) Koontz, six children, nine grandchildren, a brother, and a sister.

Donations may be made to the WPI Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, 100 Institute Road, Worcester, MA  01609.

 
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