Severino L. `Bino' Koh, 77, UMBC dean

April 13, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Severino L. "Bino" Koh, a founder and associate dean of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County College of Engineering, died Thursday of complications from heart surgery at Washington Hospital Center. The Columbia resident was 77.

"His leadership was significant because it reflected both his great enthusiasm and humanity," UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski III said of Dr. Koh, who was the College of Engineering's chief academic administrator from 1985 to 1991 and professor of mechanical engineering until his retirement in 2002.

"Bino was known as someone who cared deeply about people on campus, especially our students," Dr. Hrabowski added.

"Dr. Koh's contributions to UMBC will be remembered well into the future. His collegial approach and civility serve as an example for all of us," said Dr. Panos Charalambides, head of the department of mechanical engineering.

Dr. Koh, a native of Manila in the Philippines, earned a bachelor's degree in 1950 in meteorology from New York University and another in mechanical engineering from National University in Manila in 1952.

He moved to New York City in 1954, and earned a master's degree in engineering mechanics from Pennsylvania State University in 1957. He earned a doctorate in engineering sciences in 1962 from Purdue University.

Dr. Koh held several academic positions at the Johns Hopkins University and Penn State before joining the Purdue faculty in 1957 and later heading its engineering department.

From 1981 to 1983, he was department chairman and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at West Virginia University.

A year after his arrival at UMBC's Catonsville campus, the first nine students of the engineering school - five men and four women - graduated.

"This is historic. A lot of these people went through a lot of difficulties," Dr. Koh told The Evening Sun.

UMBC's engineering school was established only after a bitter political struggle between state education officials and several universities. Previously, engineering students were required to complete their senior year at the University of Maryland, College Park, Loyola College or Hopkins.

"He was able to serve a few different bosses in those early days, and he did it with ease. It was a unique challenge and most of what he accomplished he did with little or no resources," said James R. Milani Jr., director of administration at the College of Engineering.

Dr. Koh was started the engineering program in a used, prefabricated 11,000-square-foot building purchased from an RCA plant in Princeton, N.J. The department had an initial budget of $500,000.

"I often said that I wished that every engineering student could interact with him to see that it is possible to be both excellent in the field and a compassionate human being," Dr. Hrabowski said.

"He taught us about the important role of engineering in society and the need to put our technological advancement as a society in perspective. He embodied those values we consider most important at UMBC-academic excellence, integrity and compassion," he said.

It wasn't uncommon to see lights burning in Dr. Koh's campus office in the early hours of the morning.

"He took his responsibilities very seriously because he wanted to chart a course of excellence. And he succeeded," Mr. Milani said.

When he stepped down as associate dean in 1991, Dr. Koh said, "I've laid a good foundation, but the job is not done. I've run my lap and want to pass the baton on."

Dr. Koh was a popular figure with students as well as with fellow faculty members.

"All the students knew who he was, and he knew them by their first names. He treated them as developing professionals and used every opportunity to recognize their achievements," Mr. Milani said.

Dr. Koh was the author of more than 65 articles and technical reports. He was a founder of the American Society of Engineering Science and the Philippine-American Academy of Science and Engineering.

Dr. Koh enjoyed traveling, classical music, opera and art.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church, 6410 Amherst Ave., Columbia.

Dr. Koh is survived by his wife of 51 years, the former Paz L. Ongjoco; four daughters, Amelita P. Koh of Columbia, Bernadette P. Koh of Albuquerque, N.M., Cynthia P. Koh-Knox of West Lafayette, Ind., and Evangeline P. Brown of Fort Myers, Fla.; two brothers, Eusebio L. Koh of Saskatchewan, Canada, and Alejandro L. Koh of Houston; and six grandchildren. Another daughter, Dorothy P. Koh, died in 1972.

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