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Profiles in Badassery: G.V. Loganathan

Professor G.V. Loganathan
Professor G.V. Loganathan

When debating this week's Profile in Badassery I nearly chose Sally Mason. She is the ultimate trump card in the battle between us and our new Most Hated Rivals over at Black Heart Gold Pants. She is the reason we are going to beat the Hawkeyes from here on out, because she is a Purdue grad that is also the President of the University of Iowa.

While Mason is a worthy candidate, there is someone that is much more apropos this week. While our victory of the Hokies on Wednesday night was nice, it was just business. The schools are very close to each other in terms of programs offered. It is no wonder then that Virginia Tech grads hold positions as Purdue faculty, and vice versa. One such example was profiled a few weeks ago in Kevin Granata, who lost his life in the Virginia Tech massacre. The Purdue-Virginia Tech bond was a little deeper on that tragic day, as a second Purdue alum also lost his life to that shooter.

Gobichettipalayam Vasudevan Loganathan

I am thankful that Gobichettipalayam went by G.V. for short so I don't have to take a break after typing out his name each time. G.V. was born on April 8, 1954 in Karatadipalayam, Gobichettipalayam Taluk, Madras State (now Tamil Nadu), India. Not much is known about his life in India, but he earned his undergraduate degree in Engineering from the Madras University in 1976. He earned his Masters from the Indian Institute of Technology before completing his doctorate at Purdue in 1982.

Even though he spent a very brief time in West Lafayette, he is still one of our own. Before he even finished his doctorate at Purdue he took a job as professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech in late 1981. Much of his work was in hydrology, water resource systems, and hydraulic networks. According to the Roanoke Times, he was a very well liked professor:

Students and Virginia Tech graduates alike recalled the Indian-born professor as approachable, humble and kind - and always willing to talk over an engineering problem, no matter what time of day.

"There were many nights when we'd stay up all night together so he could give me guidance with reports or papers for conference," said Craig Moore, a Virginia Tech doctoral student who was one of Loganathan's advisees and friends.

"He was so devoted to his students, he would teach a full load throughout the regular year and then during the summer too," Moore added.

"He was the most natural teacher - always able to relate things in a way that students could understand."

According to the Washington Post, Loganathan was born in the southern Indian city of Chennai and had been a civil and environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech since 1982.

Loganathan had served on the faculty senate and was an adviser to about 75 undergraduate students, the Post reported.

"We all feel like we have had an electric shock, we do not know what to do," his brother G.V. Palanivel told the NDTV news channel from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. "He has been a driving force for all of us, the guiding force."

Ryan Fedak, a Roanoke engineer and former student, said Loganathan always taught "with a smile on his face."

"He's very humble and didn't want people fumbling over his last name, so he asked us to call him ‘Dr. L,' " Fedak added.

April 16, 2007

It is clear that Loganathan loved his work, as his job at Virginia Tech was the only one of his professional career. He won the 1996 Wesley W. Horner Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers. He also won the Virginia Tech Academy of Teaching Excellence W.E. Wine Award in 2006. He was teaching an Advanced Hydrology class on that fateful April day when Seung-Hui Cho started his rampage.

After taking out two innocent students in West Ambler Johnston Hall and mailing a manifesto to NBC news, Cho entered Norris Hall where Loganathan was teaching. He chained the three main doors shut, and scouted several rooms before entering room 206 where Loganathan was teaching. Tragically, Loganathan was the first victim of many in Norris Hall, a Cho shot the professor and killed him instantly before killing nine of the 13 students in the room with him.

While Granata was able to protect his 20 students before losing his life, Loganathan never had a chance to protect those in his charge. Indeed, he probably barely knew what hit him before being killed. Still, he is worthy of this Profile in Badassery because he died doing what he loved: teaching others the knowledge he was given. He was beloved by his students, as he even won a best professor award voted on by the students. I am proud, as a Purdue alum, to be associated with this dedicated teaching professional that did so much for Virginia Tech.