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April 14, 2004

President Hrabowski's Tribute to Dr. Severino Koh

Be under no illusion. You shall gather to yourself the images you love. As you go, the shapes, the lights, the shadows of the things you have preferred will come to you, yes, inveterately, inevitably as bees to their hive. And there in your mind and spirit they will leave with you their distilled essence, sweet as honey or bitter as gall, and you will grow unto their likeness because their nature will be in you.

As men see the color in the wave, so shall men see in you the thing you have loved most.
Oliver W.S. McCall, The Hand of God

How does one capture the essence of a man? My grandmother would have said that Bino had a "sweet spirit." He loved his family, his work, and life itself.

Our colleague and dear friend, Bino Koh, skillfully led UMBC's College of Engineering in its early years, through the development of its academic programs and its first accreditation. He also played a major role in recruiting a number of our faculty and in integrating the College into the fabric of the University. I was always taken by his passion for engineering and education, his broad international perspective, and his determination to make us the best. He had a sense of enthusiasm about building both the University and the new College of Engineering.

But what made Bino so special - even more than his rich academic and administrative contributions - were his distinctive personal qualities. In fact, a number of colleagues have talked to me about Bino in recent days, and what they all said, in essence, was that he was a genuinely kind person - something I learned firsthand many years ago.

Bino was one of my closest colleagues during our first years at UMBC, in the late 1980s when I was Vice Provost, as we focused on the challenges that students of color and international students faced on our campus. On many occasions, he and I led discussions with our President's Council about these challenges. In fact, our President, the late Michael Hooker, called us his two experts on diversity - I called Bino our expert on humanity.

I continue to remember Bino telling me about growing up in the Philippines - his is the story of poor young boy who overcame the odds and shared with countless others the transforming power of education. He brought the human touch to engineering and to the academic environment, treating every person he met as someone important, especially our students. He was always thinking about what was best for people.

When I think of Bino, I picture his disarming smile and that look of hope in his eyes, and I hear his comforting voice. If I had to give you one statement from him that stands out, it would be when he looked at me and said with great enthusiasm, "We can do this!" He always believed in the power of the human spirit.

Most important, perhaps, he taught us much about the significance of balancing work and family. Indeed, whenever he mentioned his beloved Paz, or his daughters and grandchildren, his face would light up with a great smile and a twinkle in his eyes. You can tell when someone is happy at home, and he was. It was as if he knew something that others might not know - and indeed he did. He knew what it meant to love deeply and to be loved by his family. And that love extended not only across his family, but also across our campus. We were not simply fond and respectful of Bino; we loved Bino, and we always will.

Posted by dwinds1 at April 14, 2004 12:00 AM