Editor’s note: In recognition of the toll taken by the Covid-19 pandemic, CCT will continue to acknowledge those in our community who have died from complications of the virus in our online feature “Lions We’ve Lost.” Their obituaries are marked with a ♦ symbol.
Ronald M. Cowan, psychology and statistics researcher, Seattle, on July 20, 2020. Cowan was editorial editor of Spectator, writing during his senior year about the Bicentennial, women in the dormitories, University research and more. He earned an M.A. in 1958 from GSAS. Cowan and his wife, Erica, moved to California after graduation, where he became a distinguished researcher in psychology and statistics. After many years in San Francisco, where he and his wife became close to intellectuals such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, they moved to Seattle. Those who knew Cowan knew a person of grace, astonishing intellect and deep concern for roommates, friends and the community. In addition to his wife, Cowan is survived by his children, Maya and Mischa; and one grandchild.
Daniel P. De Palma, advertising and marketing executive, college professor, Spartanburg, S.C., on November 26, 2020. Born and raised in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., De Palma earned an M.S. in 1956 from the Business School and a J.D. in 1960 from New York Law School. He served as a captain in the Marine Corps and worked for many years in marketing and advertising in NYC before becoming CEO of De Palma & Hogan Advertising in White Plains, N.Y. More recently he taught business administration at Pace University, Shepherd College, the University of Florida and City College (Gainesville, Fla.). He also served as Guardian Ad Litem, assigned by a judge to help anyone who cannot come to court, to protect their rights and interests in a case. De Palma was predeceased by his brother, Nicholas; and is survived by his wife, Kay; stepson, Scott, and his wife, Kim; stepdaughter, Tristram, and her husband, Carl; and two step-grandsons.
John C. Garnjost, businessman and rowing official, Bluffton, S.C., on January 5, 2021. After graduation, Garnjost was an Air Force pilot 1956–59, serving in Japan and Taiwan, then earned an M.B.A. from the Business School in 1961. He spent 24 years at the NYC corporate headquarters of Bristol-Myers before becoming the company’s managing director, Malaysia, and president and general manager, Taiwan. Garnjost was a member of Columbia’s heavyweight crew 1954–56 and maintained a life-long devotion to rowing, officiating in the United States and internationally, including at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. In 2013, he received the Dick Alcock Award for 50 years of Service and Dedication to U.S. Rowing. He also received the prestigious Olympic Order from the International Olympic Committee for outstanding merit in the cause of world sport for his work on behalf of rowing in Taiwan. Garnjost is survived by his wife of 47 years, Janet; and daughters, Alison, and Valerie and her husband, Matthew Lacy. Memorial contributions may be made to the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force or to USRowing.
Peter Andrews Poole, foreign service officer, professor and writer, Sugar Hill, N.H., on October 4, 2020. Born in NYC, Poole grew up in Weston, Conn., and graduated from Holderness (N.H.) School. He earned an M.A. at Yale and a Ph.D. at American University. Following service in the New York National Guard, Poole was appointed a foreign service officer in 1959 and was posted to Cambodia and Thailand. He then taught political science at Howard, the Naval War College and Old Dominion before joining the CIA as an analyst. Poole was also a prolific writer, publishing cultural and political studies of Southeast Asia, China and Eastern Europe as well as The Silver Heron, an audio book based on his foreign service experience. He was predeceased by his first wife, of 49 years, Rosemary Sullivan. He is survived by his second wife, Alice (née Bowdoin), with whom he enjoyed retirement in Sugar Hill; twin brother, Frederick King Poole, and his wife, Marta Szabo; and numerous cousins, step-children and step-grandchildren.
Anthony G. Lubowe, engineer, San Marcos, Calif., on January 20, 2020. Born in the Bronx on December 21, 1937, Lubowe earned three degrees from Columbia Engineering: a B.S. in mechanical engineering in 1958, an M.S. in engineering mechanics in 1959 and an Eng. Sc.D in engineering in 1959. He had a long and distinguished career with AT&T Bell Labs, where he worked on Telstar 1 communication satellite projects, Apollo missions and microelectronics research. Lubowe was a member of Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society and Phi Beta Kappa Academic Honor Society. He is survived by his wife, Joan BC’59, GSAS’61; son, David; daughter, Jennifer; and four grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Edward A. Weiner, pathologist, Bethesda, Md., on April 20, 2020. After graduation from the Boston University School of Medicine, Weiner served as a pathologist at Fort Benning, Ga., 1963–65. He was chief resident of pathology at NYU Medical Center and a fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s cytopathology department under Dr. Leopold Koss. Weiner founded the cytopathology department at NYU Medical Center and was its first chief, and also was chief of pathology at Beekman Downtown Hospital. He was one of the most effective advocates of non-smoking laws in the 1980s as VP of the New York Board of the American Cancer Society. Weiner is survived by his daughter, Meredith Cardenas, and her husband, Eduardo; son, Jed ’95, and his wife, Veronique; and four grandchildren.
William Esberg, teacher, Long Branch, N.J., on December 10, 2020. After graduation, Esberg returned to Asbury Park H.S., his alma mater, where he was a popular English teacher 1963–90. He taught with honesty, humor and a sawed-off plastic baseball bat that he pounded on a desk if he deemed an answer particularly subpar. He received letters from former students literally until the day he died, describing his impact on them in their development as writers and as a personal role model. A noted bridge player and teacher, Esberg fulfilled a lifelong dream in 2005 when he won the Silver Ribbon Pairs at the North American Bridge Championships and thus achieved the American Contract Bridge League’s highest rank, Grand Life Master. Predeceased by his sister, Carol, Esberg is survived by several nieces and nephews. Memorial contributions may be made to Literacy New Jersey.
David J. Rothman, history professor, New York City, on August 30, 2020. Born on April 30, 1937, in Brooklyn, Rothman earned a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1964 and joined the faculty at Columbia as an assistant professor. He became professor of history in 1967 and was presented the Albert J. Beveridge Award in 1971 for his book The Discovery of the Asylum: Social Order and Disorder in the New Republic. In 1982, Rothman became the Bernard Schoenberg Professor of Social Medicine at P&S and director, Center for the Study of Society and Medicine. He published many books, including The Willowbrook Wars: Bringing the Mentally Disabled into the Community (1984) with his wife, Sheila Rothman GSAS’60, and Strangers at the Bedside: A History of How Law and Bioethics Transformed Medical Decision Making (1991), as well as numerous articles in medical journals and the popular media. In 2003, Rothman became president of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession. In 2018, he was appointed chief of the newly created Division on Social Medicine and Professionalism, a position he held until 2020. Rothman is survived by his wife of 60 years; son, Matthew GSAS’94, and his wife, Nancy Katz; daughter, Micol PS’98, and her husband, Salim Haj; and two grandchildren.
Albert J. Sabatini, psychiatrist, New York City, on October 29, 2020. Born in the Bronx, Sabatini served in the Army at Fort Bliss, Texas, and earned an M.D. from the University of Bologna, Italy. He began his career at Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital with a psychiatric residency and rose to become medical director, a position he held for eight years. Sabatini was associate attending psychiatrist at NYU Medical Center, staff psychiatrist at the Manhattan VA Hospital and research associate professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. He also maintained a private practice in NYC for more than 50 years and was recognized for his work treating the city’s homeless mentally ill. He sat on many committees, including the New York State Commission on Quality of Care Task Force on Criminal Justice and Mental Health. A connoisseur of opera and musical theater, Sabatini was a lover of crossword puzzles, Italy and a good Negroni. He is survived by his sister, Olga Welsh; one nephew; and three nieces. Memorial contributions may be made to the Floating Hospital, Attn.: Sam Lamont, PO Box 3391, New York, NY 10163-3391.
Thomas P. Bilbao, retired banker, Maryville, Tenn., on December 21, 2020. Born in New York City on February 21, 1938, Bilbao played football at Stuyvesant H.S. and for the Lions, where he made lifelong friendships with teammates Ted Graske ’59 and George Spelios ’59, with whom he enjoyed many Homecomings and reunions. A member of Naval ROTC, he was commissioned as an ensign and promoted to lieutenant, stationed in San Diego. After leaving the Navy, Bilbao began a career in banking while earning an M.B.A. from NYU. In 1975 he was admitted into the Advanced Management Program at Harvard, after which he worked at the Connecticut Bank and Trust, Buffalo Savings Bank, Albany Savings Bank and Westport Bank and Trust in positions from chief operating officer to president. He retired in 2004 and moved with his wife, Kathleen, to Maryville, where they enjoyed living in the mountains. In addition to his wife, Bilbao is survived by his son, Christopher; daughter, Kathy, and her husband, John Walker; and five grandchildren.
Robert M. Burd, physician, Lakewood Ranch, Fla., on October 31, 2019. After graduation from P&S in 1963, Burd joined with Dr. Milton Cooper and built a thriving practice, now known as the Medical Specialists of Fairfield (Conn.), and was a distinguished physician in Bridgeport and Fairfield for 48 years. As well as caring for internal medicine patients, he specialized in hematology and oncology, was chief of the Department of Hematology at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport for more than 20 years and was affiliated with Bridgeport Hospital. Burd is survived by his wife of 55 years, Alice; sons, Russell and Stephen; two granddaughters; and brother, Murray. Memorial contributions may be made to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Vincent C. Gerosa, sales executive, Garden City, N.Y., on November 20, 2020. Born on May 18, 1937, in New York City, Gerosa grew up in Inwood and graduated from Manhattan Prep H.S. At the College, he was a member of Naval ROTC and Beta Theta Pi, and a varsity swimmer. After serving on the U.S.S. Waldron, he earned an M.B.A. in 1963 from the Business School. Gerosa was a sales executive with the New York Telephone Co., NYNEX and Verizon for more than 35 years. He remained active in the Naval Reserves, working in Naval intelligence, before retiring as a captain in 1997. Gerosa is survived by his wife of 50 years, Joan; daughter, Patricia, and her husband, Michael O’Brien; son, Vincent, and his wife, Chris; sister, Maria Gerosa Bulis; and five grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
Peter F. Muehlbauer, retired cardiologist, Somers, N.Y., on November 9, 2020. Born on August 14, 1939, in Brooklyn, Muehlbauer graduated from P&S in 1963 and served as a physician in the Air Force based in Michigan during the Vietnam War. He cared for patients in private practice for many years before joining Westmed in White Plains, N.Y., from which he retired. He lived in Ossining, N.Y., and Chappaqua, N.Y., for many years before moving to Somers in 2017. Muehlbauer is survived by his wife, Judith; son, Matthew; daughter, Lisa Orazietti; and four grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Heart Association.
♦ Stephen C. Lerner, rabbi, New York City, on January 27, 2021. A graduate of Bronx Science, Rabbi Lerner majored in history, was editorials editor at Spectator and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He studied ancient history at the University of Iowa before attending The Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Ordained in 1967, Rabbi Lerner increased the Hebrew school hours at Temple Israel of Riverhead, N.Y., and brought the synagogue into the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Rabbi Lerner was a leader of the movement to make Conservative Judaism egalitarian, expanding women’s roles starting in the early 1970s at Town & Village, where he also founded the Center for Conversion to Judaism, converting more than 1,800 students. He later was rabbi at the Jewish Community of West Hempstead, N.Y., and Temple Emanuel of Ridgefield Park, N.J., now known as Kanfei Shahar. He endowed a fund at the Spectator Publishing Co., some of which will be used for an annual Stephen C. Lerner Award for a student reporter for outstanding investigative or data journalism. Rabbi Lerner is survived by his wife, Anne; brother, Irwin LAW’57, and his wife, Doris; son, Rabbi David ’93, and his wife, Sharon Levin; daughter, Rahel Lerner ’00 and her husband, Adam Gregerman; and five grandchildren.
Donald F. Patterson, textile manufacturer, New York City, on June 27, 2020. Born on August 31, 1938, Patterson attended the High School of Performing Arts, where his parents were teachers, and played tennis at Columbia. After serving in the National Guard, he owned and operated Desire Mills in Paterson, N.J. Following a long career in the textile industry, Patterson started a career in furniture sales and then in commercial real estate. Predeceased by his brothers, George and Jerry, and his son, Michael, Patterson is survived by his wife, Sherry; son, Dan; daughters, Gena Krug and her husband, Mike, and Chrissy Anderson and her husband, Jack; sister, Lynn; and three grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
♦ Eckehard P. Simon, professor of German, Lexington, Mass., on May 2, 2020. Simon entered the College as a recent immigrant from East Germany with a far better command of German and Russian than English, yet was awarded Phi Beta Kappa. He earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Harvard before joining its German department, where he taught for 45 years and became the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures. His special interests were medieval European literature (1100-1250). Simon’s teaching of both undergraduate and graduate students focused on two fields: the German medieval court and its literature, and the emergence of theater and performance in medieval German settings. He published six books and numerous essays and did extensive work identifying medieval manuscripts at Houghton Library, Harvard’s primary repository for rare books and manuscripts. Simon is survived by his wife, Eileen BC’58; sons, Anders, Matthew and Frederick; and sisters, Hannelore Rogers and Gundula Lee. Memorial contributions may be made to research on aphasic language disorders, which afflicted Simon following a 2014 medical procedure.
John A. Istvan, petroleum engineer, Spring, Texas, on September 28, 2020. Born on May 23, 1939, in McKeesport, Pa., Istvan was an Eagle Scout and an altar boy who lettered in football, basketball and baseball at East McKeesport H.S. A geology major, Istvan drilled and fracked oil, gas and salt wells in New York, Virginia, Ohio, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arizona and California; other projects took him to Saudi Arabia, Armenia, the Republic of Georgia, Thailand, Venezuela, Mexico and Canada. Istvan and his wife of 60 years, Frances, were founding members of Christ the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Spring, and he also was involved in community service organizations. In addition to his wife, Istvan is survived by his sons, Ron and his wife, Eva, and Bruce and his wife, Alicia; daughter, Monica, and her husband, Erik; sisters, Virginia, Mary Jo and Kathy, and Kathy’s husband, C.J.; and four grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society fund in Istvan’s name, or Christ the Good Shepherd Catholic Church.
♦ William M. “Bill” Davis, social justice activist, New York City, on January 23, 2021. Davis grew up on a 49-acre farm in rural Pitcher, N.Y., the oldest of seven children who all worked the farm to supplement the family income. After graduating with a degree in psychology, he worked for the NYC Department of Welfare but was soon drafted into the Army and stationed at a military hospital in Germany. After discharge, Davis returned to the Department of Welfare and became a caseworker, working with adult, family and homeless populations. Upon his retirement in 1995, he was the tuberculosis unit supervisor at the Bellevue Hospital men’s shelter. Davis was a fixture in the trade union movement and an active member of the Communist Party USA, where he was elected to the National Board and National Committee. He was also active in the Working Families Party, Left Labor Forum and Veterans for Peace. Davis was predeceased by his first wife, Joan Feder SEAS’65, and is survived by his second wife, Esther Moroze; daughter, Angela ’92; stepsons, Marc Auerbach and Dan Auerbach; as well as six siblings. Memorial contributions may be made to People’s World, Veterans for Peace NYC Chapter 34 or the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
Nicholas R. Weiskopf, attorney and educator, New York City, on January 19, 2021. A lifelong resident of Manhattan, Weiskopf graduated magna cum laude in 1969 from the Law School and was an editor of the Law Review. He practiced with several major law firms, concentrating on commercial litigation, but his real passion was teaching. Weiskopf joined the faculty of St. John’s University School of Law in 1981 and for 32 years taught classes on subjects including contracts, commercial arbitration and legal writing. His teaching style, informal manner and dedication to students made him a memorable and popular professor and mentor. Weiskopf is survived by his former wife, Joyce; daughters, Phoebe and Nicole; and two grandchildren.
Richard S. Milich, retired clinical psychology professor, Lexington, Ky., on November 7, 2020. Milich was born on June 26, 1949, in NYC and grew up in New Jersey. He played varsity soccer at Columbia and earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Washington University in 1976. From 1985 until his retirement in 2018, Milich was a professor of clinical psychology in the University of Kentucky Department of Psychology and one of the country’s leading experts in ADHD. He was a beloved mentor of both undergraduate and graduate students at Kentucky and considered himself “an adopted Wildcat.” A prolific researcher, Milich authored and co-authored more than 120 professional articles. After surviving lymphoma, he volunteered with the Markey Cancer Center Patient Advisory Board and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night. He is survived by his twin brother, Henry, and Henry’s wife, Katherine; and two nephews. Memorial contributions may be made to GreenHouse 17 or the Psychology Development Fund at Kentucky.
John Keating Willcox, radio executive and teacher, Manchester, Mass., on July 16, 2020. Born on August 2, 1951, in Washington D.C., Willcox graduated from Milton (Mass.) Academy in 1969. He entered with the Class of 1973 but did not graduate, transferring during his senior year to Boston University, where he earned a B.S. and M.S. in computer science and a master’s of divinity. He was working toward a Ph.D. in mathematics and a doctor of ministry at the time of his death. Willcox assembled a network of radio stations in New England and taught computer science at BU. He was a lifelong member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Beverly Farms and also attended Christ the Redeemer in Danvers. Willcox was an avid polo player who also played kayak polo and bicycle polo, and learned how to luge and bobsled. He purchased and restored square-rigged tall ships and was a chef who created cookbooks about blue food and fish sticks and believed in four major food groups: chocolate, chocolate cake, brownies and chocolate ice cream. Willcox is survived by his former wife, Robin; sons, Clark and Reinhold; daughters, Barbara and her husband, Jonathan Fisk, and Alexandra; two grandchildren; brothers, William, Thomas and Douglas; sister, Mary Willcox Smith; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Nicholas P. Sgammato, musician and teacher, Ossining, N.Y., on October 19, 2020. Born on November 15, 1954, in Peekskill, N.Y., Sgammato was salutatorian at Ossining H.S., where he developed his love for music. He then attended the University of Miami and earned a master’s from SUNY New Paltz. Proficient in nearly every musical instrument, Sgammato spent more than 30 years as a music teacher at Round Hill Elementary School in Washingtonville, N.Y., Purchase Day Camp in Purchase, N.Y., and St. John the Evangelist Parish in Beacon, N.Y. He was a lifelong fan of jazz, blues, coffee and often to his dismay, the New York Mets. Sgammato and his wife, Linda (née Sellick), were active members of the Community of Sant’Egidio USA. In addition to his wife, Sgammato is survived by his sisters, Sue and Theresa SEAS’84; son, Joseph; and daughters, Jessica and her husband, Paul, and Ali and her husband, Robert; and four grandchildren.
George Poon, financial officer, Brooklyn, N.Y., on September 23, 2020. A graduate of Brooklyn Tech H.S., Poon earned a master’s from NYU and worked in the financial services industry in the banking, trading and insurance sectors. He was a devoted family man who loved traveling, especially to national parks to hike and enjoy the landscape. Poon is survived by his wife, Helen; sons, Mitchell and Evan; mother, Mary; sisters, Lillian, Linda and Janet; and many nieces and nephews. Memorial contributions may be made to the Cancer Research Institute.
♦ James R. Williams, writer, New Delhi, India, on April 28, 2021. Born on June 30, 1985, in Florence, Ala., Williams lived in nearby St. Florian until his mother died in a car accident in 1992 and his father died by suicide three years later. Williams and his older brother, John, went to live with their aunt and uncle, Sharon and Bill Alexander, in East Amherst, N.Y. Williams majored in English, wrote observational essays and especially admired Joan Didion. He edited Inside New York, a guidebook to the city; sang for Notes and Keys; wrote and edited The Blue and White; and co-wrote the 2008 Varsity Show. He became a personal assistant to writer Daphne Merkin and, in order to better understand his childhood, began an oral history project by interviewing his parents’ friends in Alabama. Passionate about traveling, Williams met Ayush Thakur in India in 2017 and moved there to live with him. They became engaged and were trying to get a visa for Thakur so they could be married in the United States. Williams was trying to change the way homosexuality is portrayed in India, as he believed that positive portrayal of gays and lesbians on American television contributed to their recent increased acceptance. Williams is survived by Thakur; his brother; his sister-in-law, Eliza Borné; and the Alexanders. Memorial contributions may be made to UNICEF’s Covid-19 Indian Relief Effort or GLAAD.
James W. Pagels, writer and research assistant, Washington, D.C., on April 9, 2021. Pagels was born on July 28, 1991, in Los Angeles and grew up in Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. He double-majored in English and American studies, was sports editor and a columnist for Spectator and also worked for WKCR and the CU Film Program. He earned an M.S. in mathematics and statistics from Georgetown in 2019 while working for the Federal Reserve studying trends in global markets, and was in the second year of a Ph.D. program in economics at Michigan. Pagels continued his journalism career as an online editor for the Dallas Morning News and freelancer for ESPN, Slate, Bloomberg, FiveThirtyEight, Deadspin and The Atlantic. He also was a research assistant for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and a regular contributor to Forbes, where he wrote about sports economics and prediction markets. Pagels is survived by his parents, Bill and Diggy; and sister, Laura, and her husband, Troy Menendez.
Yeabsira B. Tigistu, marketer, Brooklyn, on November 14, 2020. Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Tigistu came to the United States as a young child and graduated from Pioneer H.S. in San Jose, Calif. He majored in political science at the College and was a member of the Men of Color Alliance, Black Students Organization and Sigma Nu fraternity. Upon graduation, he joined Walmart eCommerce as a category management associate and was promoted to category lead in October 2019. An avid reader, Tigistu had an encyclopedic mind and was knowledgeable about myriad subjects. He is survived by his parents, Tigistu Gebre and Elsabet Beyene; and younger brother, Samuel.
— Alex Sachare ’71
Columbia College Today welcomes obituaries for graduates of Columbia College, the undergraduate liberal arts college of Columbia University in the City of New York. CCT does not publish obituaries for undergraduate or graduate alumni of any other Columbia University school. Word limit is 150; text may be edited for length, clarity and style at the editors’ discretion. Links and/or addresses for memorial contributions may be included. Please fill out the Submit an Obituary form.
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