Low Plaza

September 11 Attacks Claim 34 Victims Among Columbia Alumni

By Suzanne Trimel

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks claimed the lives of at least 34 Columbia alumni, many of them executives in banking, securities, insurance and management consulting. The victims also included two members of the 2001 graduating class: Tyler Ugolyn, 23, and Joshua Birnbaum, 24, who received their bachelor's degrees last May and began their first jobs in the World Trade Center only weeks before the attacks. Other alumni who died include Douglas Karpiloff, the Port Authority security executive at the World Trade Center, Richard Gabriel, a decorated Vietnam veteran and founder of a management consulting firm; Weibin Wang, a gifted geophysicist from China who had switched to a high-tech computer career and recently bought a suburban home for his growing family; Nasima Simjee, an equity analyst, born in Burma, who was a source of guidance and inspiration to six farflung brothers and sisters, and Arlene Fried, the daughter of Holocaust survivors who returned to school to earn a law degree after the youngest of her three daughters started school.

All but one of the victims – Gabriel, who was a passenger on the American Airlines Flight 77 that slammed into the Pentagon – worked on the upper floors of the Twin Towers as bond and stock brokers, investment bankers, lawyers, securities analysts, management consultants and computer technology researchers and analysts. Ten worked for the Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage firm and were among hundreds of the firm's employees who were trapped on the 101st to 105th floors of the north tower after the first airliner hit the building.

Few of Columbia's schools were spared victims. Columbia College, the School of General Studies, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science counted alumni among the dead, as did the professional schools of business, law, and international and public affairs, Teachers College and the School of Continuing Education and Special Programs. Columbia Business School was the hardest hit with nine alumni among the victims.

Columbia will honor these alumni and the many relatives of current students, alumni, faculty and staff who were also lost in the attacks at a service of remembrance on Monday, Oct. 15, at noon in the Roone Arledge Auditorium of Lerner Hall.

The following information, compiled by the Office of Public Affairs, is based on interviews with classmates and relatives, information supplied by them or news reports:

Douglas Karpiloff, SEAS '71, of Mamaroneck, N.Y., earned a master's degree in industrial engineering at Columbia. As life safety and security director for the Port Authority at the World Trade Center, he was in demand worldwide as a speaker on building security and terrorism threats against urban property. His advice on terrorism and disaster recovery was gained from first-hand experience following the Twin Towers bombing in 1993, when he served as director of tenant services. As recently as August 27, he conducted a security tour and briefing at the Twin Towers for 40 top professionals organized by the International Security Conference and Exposition. An advance memo posted on the Internet noted that a background investigation would be conducted for each registrant. In the privatization of the World Trade Center, Karpiloff was serving on a transition team to assist the new security director, John O'Neill, formerly an FBI counter-terrorism expert, who also died in the attacks. The secretary of the Port Authority, Daniel Bergstein of Teaneck, N.J., a 1984 graduate of the engineering school, also was lost in the attacks.

Although she gravitated to Wall Street after graduating with honors from Columbia College in 2000, Brooke Jackman was not completely fulfilled in the financial world, said her brother, Ross. Her goal was to earn a master's degree in social work and the night before the attacks, she was filling out applications for graduate programs. "She decided there were more important things in life than making money," he said. "She wanted to help people." Jackman had worked at Cantor Fitzgerald for only three months, training to be a bond broker on the 104th floor of the north tower. After the attacks, Jackman's family planned a vigil at her favorite Manhattan bookstore near her apartment, inviting a few of her close friends. When the family arrived at Borders Books in Kips Bay, they found a gathering so large that people spilled from the sidewalk into the street. Her picture was posted at the bookstore with a sign, "Our favorite customer." Ross Jackman noted that his sister, 23, who majored in history and women's studies at Columbia, was always reading. "She had an incredible mind with great recall. Ask her about something ten years ago and she would tell you the date, time, who was there and what you were wearing."

Nine days after the attack, more than 700 people filled a church in the verdant, rolling hills of Bernardsville, N.J. for a memorial service for John Clinton Hartz, Business '62. Besides his wife, Elinore, three grown children, stepchildren and other relatives, the mourners included hundreds of friends and neighbors from the Somerset Hills Country Club, where Hartz, 64, was president; the Essex Hunt Club, where he was a longtime member, and two busloads of his business associates and colleagues from New York City, where he was a senior vice president at Fiduciary Trust, International, and had worked on the 94th floor of the north tower. Many recalled that when the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, Hartz helped lead fellow workers to safety and many felt sure that he had tried to do the same on Sept. 11. The outpouring of grief, friends and associates said, reflected the fact that Hartz was the sort of man who was always there to help in times of adversity. He had deep roots in the Somerset Hills community: a childhood schoolmate, Dan Todd, brother of former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, was an usher at the service. "It's senseless," he said. "We shouldn't have had to lose John in this way."

Richard Gabriel, 54, was a combat veteran of Vietnam who enrolled at Columbia Business School after military service. He had lost a leg in battle and received the Purple Heart. His daughter, Patricia, who works in Manhattan, said her father was traveling to Australia on business when the hijacked plane went down. A resident of Great Falls, Va., he had founded Stratin Consulting Co. after working for General Foods and other firms. She described her father as a man who loved to spend time with family and was an avid reader of history books. "He had a big presence and strong personality," she said. "When he came into a room, everybody felt his presence." Besides his daughter, Gabriel is survived by his wife, Ann, and four sons.

At a memorial service on Long Island for Arlene Fried, Law '93, family members recalled how this daughter of Holocaust survivors had taught her own three daughters to appreciate the moment and not wait for tomorrow. Fried, 49, was a vice president and general counsel at Cantor Fitzgerald. She had returned to school to study law at age 37 after her youngest daughter entered kindergarten. At a memorial service at Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn Heights, N.Y., her father, Nicholas Joseph, recalled that he had wanted to raise his family in the United States because he felt it was safe. "We never dreamed that this tragedy could happen in this country," he said.

Matthew G. Leonard, Law '87, was head of litigation for Cantor Fitzgerald and served on Columbia Law School's board of visitors for more than ten years, including five as vice chair. Leonard was previously a lawyer at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, a Manhattan law firm. In addition, Leonard had done extensive pro bono work, largely for MFY Legal Services, where he had worked as an intern while a student at the law school. He is survived by his wife, Yolanda Cerda Leonard, and their 7-month old daughter.

Macao, Beijing, Siberia, the Middle East – these were the exotic places that Karen J. Klitzman, 38, had gotten to know in her travels for work and pleasure. After graduating from the School of International and Public Affairs in 1988, she began working at the New York Mercantile Exchange as an energy specialist and traveled in Siberia and throughout the Middle East. She recently went to work for Cantor Fitzgerald's eSpeed. At Princeton, she had studied Russian and sociology and following graduation, went to Macao to teach. Then she taught English in Beijing. Her twin sister, Donna, a New Jersey doctor, told The New York Times that she was a crackerjack tennis player and a quick wit. "Like having a built-in best friend." Klitzman's family established a scholarship in her name at the School of International and Public Affairs:

Victor Wald, SIPA '75 and Business '76, was passionate about international politics, according to Suzanne Rosenberg of Teaneck, N.J., a classmate and friend of Wald's who had renewed their Columbia friendship years later when they found their children attended the same school in New Jersey. "I know that right now Victor would have been sending out a million e-mails totally engaged in the geopolitical significance of this tragedy," Rosenberg said several days after the attacks. "He was very intense when it came to political discussions," she said. "You just waited for his e-mails whenever a crisis occurred because he had such an interesting perspective." A native New Yorker who lived on the Upper West Side, Wald had recently joined the Aon Corporation. He and his wife, Rebecca, were the parents of two daughters.

Paul Acquaviva, Law '97, was vice president for corporate development at Cantor Fitzgerald's new Internet venture, e-Speed. The 29-year-old resident of Glen Rock, N.J. had a 21/2 year old daughter, Sarah. His wife is expecting a son in December. Acquaviva graduated from Rutgers in 1994 and was a wide receiver on the Wayne, N.J. Valley High School's 1989 state championship football team and a starter on the school's basketball team. A memorial scholarship fund was established in his name at the school.

Fifteen years ago, Weibin Wang came to the United States from China to study the physics of earthquakes. A graduate of the Beijing Graduate School of Technology, he was a brilliant and ambitious graduate student and a sweet and gentle man, according to his advisor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Professor Christopher Scholz. As he neared completion of the Ph.D. in 1994, Wang decided not to pursue an academic career and instead sought a job in the financial world, employing his considerable ability in computer technology. On the morning of Sept. 11, he left his new home in suburban Rockland County, kissed his wife, Wen Shi, and three children – ages 12, 10 and 2 – goodbye and left for his office on the 103rd floor of the north tower, where he wrote computer code for Cantor Fitzgerald's ESpeed division. Liqing Xu, a friend from his student days at Lamont, said of Wang: "He had a beautiful family and a beautiful life. This has simply disappeared." A year ago, Scholz saw Wang, 41, and his wife, a high school English teacher in Manhattan, and their then-one-year-old baby. "They were just glowing," he said. "He seemed to have everything he wanted in life. They were such an American success story." Xu said Wang's father was traveling from Beijing for the memorial service on Oct. 6 at 11 A.M. at the Suffern Presbyterian Church in Suffern, N.Y.

Cantor Fitzgerald also employed Brian J. Murphy, Business '87, a New York City resident, as a vice president in the eSpeed division. A memorial mass took place at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in Manhattan on Sept. 25. Murphy is survived by his wife, Judith, and two daughters. Joseph Della Pietra, CC '99, worked for the company as a bond trader on the 104th floor of the north tower. His parents reside on Staten Island. John B. Fiorito, CC '82, of Stamford, Ct., also was a bond trader on the 104th floor. A memorial mass was celebrated on Sept. 22, at St. Gabriel's Church in Stamford. Fiorito, 40, was survived by his wife, Karen Kovacco Fiorito, his son, John; his brother Dr. Joseph Fiorito, and his mother, Sarah. Joshua Birnbaum, 24, who studied economics and graduated in May from the School of General Studies, also was a Cantor Fitzgerald employee. Born in Israel, his family lived in Oceanside, N.Y.

Robert Murach, CC '78, was totally involved as a father in the lives of his two daughters, ages 9 and 6, in their suburban home in Montclair, N.J., his wife, Laurie Murach, said in an interview with the Newark Star Ledger. "From the time they were babies," she said, "he changed diapers, took them to dance classes, fed them. He'd play his CD's on the weekends and make up dances with them." Murach, 45, who grew up in Brooklyn, was a track star in high school and continued an active life on weekends and vacations, as a golfer and scuba diver. He remained close to six friends who were on the track team that won the city championship in 1974. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of that triumph, the group took a rafting trip to Utah in 1999. Murach, who graduated from Columbia with a degree in economics, was a senior vice president at Cantor Fitzgerald.

Howard Lee Kestenbaum, who received a Ph.D. in physics in 1972 from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, worked for Aon Corp. Risk Services in the south tower. A 1967 graduate of Williams College, he lived with his wife, Granvilette Kestenbaum, Social Work '72, in Montclair, N.J.

Tyler Ugolyn, 23, was one of the exuberant young graduates among the Columbia College Class of 2001 at the graduation ceremony on Low Plaza last May 16. Celebrating the moment, he and his buddies mischievously lit up fat cigars as their classmates looked on with amusement. Ugolyn played guard for two seasons on the Columbia basketball team and was known to other players as a generous, caring young man who was deeply spiritual. He was involved in a Christian athletic group which met for weekly discussion and did volunteer work. Ugolyn, who lived with his parents and younger brother in Ridgefield, N.J., had only recently started work as a research associate for Fred Algar Management.

Theresa Risco, who was known as Ginger, earned a bachelor's degree from the School of General Studies in 1980 and was the wife of Bill Nelson, professor of health policy at Dartmouth and New York University. She was a senior vice president of Fred Algar Management. A memorial service will take place on Friday, Oct. 12 at noon at St. Paul's Chapel on the Columbia campus.

Two Columbia graduates were members of the portfolio management team at Alger Management. Seilai Khoo, 36, was executive vice president and portfolio manager of the American Asset Growth Fund. A 1986 graduate of Columbia College, she majored in computer science with a minor in economics. She had worked for Fred Alger Management, since 1989, first as an analyst responsible for coverage of the computer software, telecommunications, paper and steel industries and beginning in 1994, as an associate portfolio manager. She was promoted to full portfolio manager in 1995.

Ron Tartaro, 36, who received a BS in operations research in 1985 and an MS the following year, was executive vice president and portfolio manager for several funds. After graduate study at Columbia, he went to work for AT&T Bell Labs as a quality consultant to various manufacturing facilities. While at AT&T, he joined Polytechnic University in Brooklyn as professor of manufacturing engineering, a position he held until 1991. He joined Fred Alger Management as a research associate in 1990 and rose to become senior analyst, responsible for coverage of the cellular communication, semiconductor, airline, restaurant, supermarket, auto, and trucking industries. In 1994, Tartaro was promoted to associate portfolio manager, to full portfolio manager and vice president in 1995 and finally to senior vice president and executive vice president.

Nasima Simjee, Business '93, was an equity analyst at Fiduciary Trust who had just completed her qualifications as a certified financial analyst. Simjee, 38, who was born in Burma, was smart and very ambitious, said a friend, Janet Lubas, Business '94. She had come to this country in 1982 with nothing, said her sister, Sajeda, "Her determination and resolve led her to realize her goals and our family was so proud of her accomplishments," she said. Lubas and Simjee had met in Business School, and frequently had dinner together after work to share confidences about their careers and lives. As single women, the two compared notes on the New York dating scene. Both were unattached "so it was a kind of bond to talk about dating," said Lubas. She said her friend was passionate about hiking and had recently returned from a trip to the Canadian Rockies. Simjee was one of seven brothers and sisters, all of whom live in California. "She was really the center of the siblings, even as the youngest daughter," said Lubas. "She was kind and considerate and everyone wanted her guidance and advice." After the attacks, Lubas said, members of Simjee's family gathered at her apartment on the Upper West Side and she learned something about her friend that she hadn't known – that she had stitched beautiful needlepoint canvasses.

Joseph Mathai, Business '76, who had worked for many of the country's leading financial and technology firms, was a managing partner with Cambridge Technology Partners and lived in Arlington, Ma., outside of Boston. He was active in the city's technology circles and had won the Cambridge Technology Award for three years in a row. Born in Trivandrum, India, he earned the bachelor's degree at Kerala University. After graduating from Columbia with an MBA, he worked in New York for 17 years, first for Paine Webber, then Merrill Lynch and the New York Stock Exchange. He moved to Boston in 1994, joining Fidelity Investments and switching to Cambridge Technology Partners in 1998. He was a member of the technology committee at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, which his son and daughter attend. Besides the children, he is survived by his wife, Teresa, four brothers and his mother.

Leah Oliver, SEAS '98, had visited her family in Dartmouth, Ma., the weekend before the attacks. "We had an early birthday party for her," said Norman Benjamin, a friend of her mother, Elizabeth Rego. Oliver would have turned 25 on Sept. 12. She had just started her job in risk management for Marsh USA, an insurance company, about two months ago. "She had a lot of drive," Benjamin told the Boston Herald. "She did a lot in her short life." Oliver, who lived in Brooklyn Heights, worked on the 96th floor of the north tower.

Harry Taback, a 1984 graduate of Columbia Business School, was executive vice presdient in risk control strategy and consulting and a managing regional director of Marsh & McLennan, where he worked for 30 years. His office was on the 100th floor of the north tower. At the top of his field, his work took him all over the world and he often gave lectures on risk management during his travels. He had planned to teach after his retirement, according to his daughter, Cheryl Taback. "He loved what he did," she said. "He had a pasion for it. It was a chosen lifelong career, not just a job." Taback served on the National Safety Council of Risk Management. Taback, 56, a lifelong New Yorker and resident of Staten Island, was a family man who loved to spend time with his three grown daughters, Tracy and Lori, in addition to Cheryl, and young granddaughter, Alexa Last winter, the family took a cruise in southern California and the Mexican Riveria, a few months after his wife of 34 years, Jean, died. Her father wanted to reassure his children that the family bond remained strong. A memorial mass will take place at 10:30 A.M. Oct. 6 at St. Thomas the Apostile Roman Catholic Church in Pleasant Plains, Staten Island.

Alisha C. Levin, who earned a master's degree in 1992 at Teachers College, worked for Fuji Bank in the human resources department. A memorial service took place in Philadelphia on Sept. 30. Her parents, Marvin and Audrey Levin, reside in Northeast Philadelphia.

Arnold Lim, 28, of New York City, earned a certificate in the analysis and design of information systems in Columbia's Continuing Education and Special Programs division last spring. A memorial service will take place on Oct. 6 at 2 P.M. at the Immaculate Conception Chruch on East 14th Street.

James Devitt contributed to this article.

Published: Oct 04, 2001
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002


Search Columbia News    Advanced Search  Help

Phone: 212.854.5573    Office of Public Affairs