A Tragic Day
Another Alum Lost Sept. 11
I praise the article on Sept. 11 (Voices from Rensselaer, Dec. 2001). It is a tragedy to our country that we will never forget. However, I need to add to the story. Among the World Trade Center victims was Carlos DaCosta (BSEE '84), a fellow RPI alumnus and good friend. Carlos was an electrical engineer for the Port Authority, working for the World Trade Center Operations department on Sept 11. His office was on one of the upper floors of Tower 1.
From the last communication with Carlos by another co-worker, he was on the 78th floor trying to help a person who was stuck in one of the elevators. If you knew Carlos, this is not a surprise. He was the sort of person to go out of his way to help another person. He loved his work at the Port Authority. As another friend and co-worker put it, he understood the human side of the job. Not something you often hear about engineers. Besides his strong work ethic and technical expertise, he brought to work his ever-positive view on life. It was something that always impressed me very much when we worked together at the Port Authority some years back. It is a terrible tragedy for his family and a great loss to the community at large. We will all miss him very much.
Suzanne Glatz-Goldsmith '85
Sept. 11 Experience
I very much appreciated the Voices from Rensselaer article in the December 2001 alumni magazine. My office at Pace University (the closest university to ground zero, just three blocks away) faces the World Trade Center site, and from my room where I watched the buildings go up in the early 70s, I witnessed their coming down the morning of Sept. 11.
I only heard the first plane hit, and then looked up at the flames and wind-blown falling debris. The second plane hit Tower #2 from the side of the building away from my window, so I saw a massive ball of fire suddenly erupt, seeming to spread out everywhere and appearing to come right at me, until it turned black and ceased its forward motion. It would not be till later that I learned that the horror was caused by planes driven into the buildings.
The latter event occurred just before my 9:05 physics class was to begin. My biggest fear was that students would be tempted to go out onto the streets; so in a classroom a few doors from my office, in a state of shock, I managed to deliver a lecture, keeping my students in the room. At 9:40 a.m., the University canceled all classes. Shortly afterward, as I returned to my office, I saw the first tower disappear. What followed was a scene of horror, as what appeared to be a pyroplastic flow rushed through the streets beneath me, with people scrambling in almost every direction to escape. Within seconds, all turned a strange white as up to 10 inches of ash coated everything and visibility shrank to zero.
At the University, we turned off the ventilation system to prevent the toxic gases from coming into the school. Students who could get home via the Brooklyn Bridge (which abuts the University--another connection to RPI) made their way across it. After I saw to it that the faculty and students of my department were taken care of (I chair the Dept. of Chemistry and Physical Sciences), I made my way north, walking the eight miles to my apartment on Manhattan's upper west side.
Pace University lost its World Trade Institute (the 54th floor of Tower #1), but fortunately, all who were on that floor were evacuated. We did lose four students who were interning at the World Trade Center. Approximately 35 alumni were also killed. Pace students on campus who could not get home were evacuated to our campuses in Westchester. Although Pace's president, Dr. David Caputo, opened our doors to the weary rescue workers and allowed the University to be used for a while as a triage center, with the loss of electricity and phones, the University had to close and was unable to reopen for another 10 days.
One of my adjunct faculty members who teaches forensic chemistry (Pace now offers a BS/MS program in forensic science) and works as a forensic scientist for the NYC Medical Examiners Office was dispatched to aid in the evacuation of Tower 2. Just as he approached the building, it began its collapse. He was caught up in the flow of debris, receiving a severe concussion and other serious injuries, and eventually was rescued by others. Although close to death for the next few days, he has since recovered and is now back at the ME's office and has returned to teaching his classes at Pace.
This has been a horrible experience for all of us in the downtown area. We have come to realize that the experience is shared by people around the world who now feel that security and a certain state of innocence are gone. At this point, the terrible odors have all but disappeared, but with every siren or sound of a passing plane, I can't help but worry, can it happen again?
Melvyn Jay Oremland 61
New York, N.Y.
The Relief Effort
I am an adjunct faculty member in the Lally School at RPI and I have attached a photo of me taken at ground zero on Sept. 15.
I am a Major with an Army reserve special operations unit and was helping out with the relief effort after the Sept. 11 attacks. I'm the guy in the middle.
Edmund L. Luzine Jr.
Editors Note: Luzine wrote to us again in January to let us know he was now back on active duty with the military and en route to the Middle East/Central Asia.
Remembering Jeanne Lynch
I read with great sadness the passing of Jeanne Lynch in the December issue. My most vivid memories of my MBA years come from Jeanne and her classes. Based on her years of experience in upper corporate circles, she was able to bridge the gap between theory and how to employ it in reality. She had amazing insight, an incredible ability to read people, and (of course) could be tough as nails but never in a mean way. She forced us to stretch our minds, think out of the box, and be prepared for the unexpected. And I understand she played a mean game of golf. I was always too intimidated to take her up on the offer to compete on the links despite a 40-year age advantage. She truly will be missed.
I learned of the passing of Dr. Jeanne Lynch of the Lally School of Management in your last issue. I have had the pleasure of this remarkable womans friendship since 1984, as an undergrad and grad student, a teaching assistant, and as a visiting executive in her notorious Intro to Management student presentations. She offered me her insight and advice in my strategic decisions, enjoying my successes and ensuring I learned the lessons that are failures gifts.
Jeannes passion for teaching contrasted with the fact that she terrified many students. All hard edges, gravelly voice and 1980s-greed-is-good with no tolerance for fools and no mincing of words, she was a real eminence grise in the classroom. At least until she started guiding us through the days case study, patiently teaching us how to unlock the secret of a particular business model and gleefully exclaiming at hours end, Dont you love it? There are a million ways to make a fortune!
Students werent the only ones Jeanne occasionally terrified. As the maverick den mother to a group of faculty innovators, she helped transform the School of Management from a backwater to a destination. She was an aggressive self-promoter and an avid student of Machiavelli who reveled in learning (and manipulating) the levers of power.
Professor Lynch had other facets, too. She believed in the social contract, and had nothing but contempt for cheaters in business. She was gracious, almost courtly, in private. She gave gladly of her experience in generous office hours--as long as you could stand the clouds of smoke and the frighteningly filthy pot she poured coffee from. Her warmth extended beyond the job in offers to needy grad students to join her at her club for a drink and dinner (and another drink).
Many of us recall Jeannes lessons often as we navigate through life. I once heard her snap at a student who protested some harsh criticism, Get over it Mommies arent allowed in board meetings. Maybe not, but my Auntie Mame of Avarice is with me every day.
Kevin Ruebenstahl 86, MBA 91
Fuel Cell Myths
The three laws of chemical thermodynamics and Faradays law can be used to show why the proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) is very inefficient. As a stationary electric power source, its fuel efficiency is 20 percent compared to 47 percent for the molten carbonate fuel cell (MCFC) or 49 percent for a clean dual cycle electric power plant using natural gas. For a car, the PEMFC system has a fuel efficiency of 10 percent compared to 20 percent for the internal combustion engine.
The use of waste heat from a fuel cell for heating is another myth. Are RPI summer students going to take several hot showers per day during the air conditioning season to use the waste heat? Engineers and architects specify 92 percent efficient units to provide heat when needed.
MCFCs must still be proven as a reliable, reasonable-cost source of electric power. It makes far more sense to have RPI, the state of New York and the electric energy provider join in a project to install MCFCs on the electric grid to serve the entire campus and nearby electric power users.
The PEMFC system in a car must use 99.99 percent pure hydrogen that can only be produced by the electrolysis of water. The net fuel efficiency from the coal pile at the electric power plant to the output of the fuel cell system is 8 percent. It's 10 percent if natural gas is the source of energy. Fifty percent of the electricity in the U.S. is produced by coal. Hence the air pollution, carbon dioxide and acid rainfall from the fuel cell car are far worse than that produced by the 20 percent efficient internal combustion engine using gasoline or natural gas.
Bill Kelleher 51
The letter in the December issue by my classmate Lin Hartung Chambers 85 regarding the possible use of fuel cells in new building construction at Rensselaer calls for a response.
I feel qualified to comment, as I was the commissioning agent for the Durst Organization, the developer of Four Times Square in Manhattan. This building, completed in 1999, had many green features, including two 200kW phosphoric acid fuel cells manufactured by International Fuel Cells. These are among the first fuel cells to be installed in a commercial office building anywhere, and have performed well, achieving 98 percent availability.
Ms. Chambers sentiments are laudable. However, fuel cells alone cannot provide the electric and thermal energy necessary for the type of energy-intensive buildings that the Institute requires. The boiler plant and utility grid power would still be required.
Some form of cogeneration should be considered. A peaking plant, utilizing gas turbines, heat recovery steam generators (HRSCs), and steam turbine generators can provide combined cycle efficiencies approaching the fuel cell (>75%) at a much more favorable capital cost per kW, as well as vastly superior lifecyle cost. The heat output from such a plant is in a much more usable form (i.e. higher temperature). In addition, use of advanced emissions controls such as SCONOX can reduce emissions to the point of equaling most of the environmental benefits of the fuel cells.
Peaking to manage the load profile, along with an aggressive energy purchasing program, could result in substantial savings to the Institute.
Fuel cells are a valuable technology and research should proceed into their use. However, since both first- and lifecycle costs must always be an integral part of engineering decision-making, the current state of the art does not make fuel cells the responsible engineering choice for stationary power production for commercial and institutional buildings.
Donald Winston 85
The Harkness Experience
Enjoyed the latest issue, but find some errors in The Harkness Experience. As you can see from the enclosed, the 1944 lacrosse team started off the season with Victor Starzenski as coach. (Vic played lacrosse with my father at Stevens Institute in 1906-07). Now my memory may be way off after almost 60 years, but what I remember goes something like this: One day while practicing at the field by the old Armory, a young man just out of the RCAF asked if he could play with us. He then proceeded to run rings around us. Starzenski, recognizing talent, prevailed on him to coach us.
South Bristol, Maine
Not to diminish in any way the stellar accomplishments of the Class of 2005 (Rensselaer, Dec. 2001, page 5), the claim that their average SAT score of 1308 is an all-time high could be subject to debate. The Class of 1968 had an average SAT of 1295 which, we have been made to believe, was the all-time high. Our 1993 Reunion T-shirts even said, 1295 - Beat That!
As I remember from remarks made during orientation by the director of admissions, James Newman, this broke down as 595 Verbal, 700 Math. Several years ago, The College Board re-centered the SAT. A 595 Verbal is a re-centered 662, approximately, while a 700 Math is now a 690 giving the Class of 1968 a grand total of 1352, re-centered. I think we retain some bragging rights here.
Paul Irwin 68
Charles A. Dana Professor of Mathematics
Randolph-Macon Woman's College
I'm happy to see that the Class of 2005 has tested better than other recent classes and is more select by today's standards. However, I remember SATs in the same range for classes in the early 1970s which were not recentered. I believe 1971 or 1972's class averaged 715 in math under the old system. Since 1300 back then would translate into about 1410 today, the decline nationwide in test results that required the recentering has not escaped RPI, and the epidemics of inflated high school grades and scores on today's test is hardly raising the bar from those golden olden days at dear old RPI. More effort is needed on restoring academic integrity on all levels so that all students will be better prepared to meet the demands of the 21st century.
John Teets '70
I experienced a very pleasant surprise when I read the December 2001 issue of Rensselaer. On page 47 I saw an insert on recent books by RPI alumni with photographs of the covers along with a brief narrative. My reaction was, Wow, what a fantastic way to celebrate the intellectual achievements of RPI graduates. This showcase is hard documentation of the excellent preparation that RPI students have experienced at Rensselaer.
Congratulations and thanks to you for this great idea and I hope that you will continue to include this wonderful showcase in your magazine. It definitely gives all RPI alumni the satisfaction of the realization of the very solid education that they received at Rensselaer along with their fellow students who eventually became authors. It also gives prospective students, who apply to RPI for admission, an idea of the quality of the intellectual environment they would experience at RPI.
I am sending you a copy of my book, Partial Differential Equations and Boundary Value Problems With Maple, published by Academic Press, which I sincerely hope that you would consider for future insertion into the bookshelf portion of the Rensselaer magazine. When you are through with the book, I would ask that you send it to the RPI bookstore manager who might consider it as part of the creation of a permanent showcase window of books written by RPI alumni. This could also be coordinated with the director of admissions who would use this showcase for informing and attracting the very best prospective high school students who visit RPI. I think this would be a win-win situation for all of the RPI family.
George A. Articolo 61
Mount Laurel, N.J.