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October 19, 2010, Volume 57, No. 08


Dr. Koch, Astronomy

Dr. Robert H. Koch, professor emeritus of astronomy, died October 11 in Ardmore. He was 80.

Dr. Koch received a BA in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1951. He served for two years in the U.S. Army prior to earning a masters in astronomy at Penn (1955) and a masters of science in astronomy from the University of Arizona in 1957. He returned to Penn for his PhD, which was awarded to him in 1959.

He began his teaching career as an instructor at Amherst and Mt. Holyoke Colleges. By 1960, he was assistant professor at Amherst, and held that position for five years. He was then an associate professor, first at the University of Massachusetts, and then at the University of New Mexico, before joining the faculty at Penn in 1967. He was made full professor in 1969, and emeritus status was accorded to him when he retired in 1996.

Dr. Koch was the chairman of Penn’s department of astronomy (1969-1973), undergraduate chairman of the department of astronomy and astrophysics (1984-1987), director of the Flower and Cook Observatory, and chairman of the graduate group in astronomy and astrophysics (1989-1994). He served on numerous committees, including the Natural Science Board, the Senate Executive Committee, the University Safety Committee and many others.

He published widely, and was an invited lecturer at universities and observatories worldwide. Dr. Koch continued his astronomical research, mostly on close binary stars, after his retirement. In 2009, he wrote a history of the astronomy department at Penn entitled, “Observational Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania 1751 – 2007.”

Dr. Koch is survived by his wife, Joanne; sons, Thomas and James; daughters, Elizabeth and Patricia; a brother, a sister and seven grandchildren.

A Funeral Mass will be held December 21, 10 a.m. at St. Colman’s Roman Catholic Church in Ardmore, PA.


Dr. Laufer, Radiology

Dr. Igor Laufer, professor of radiology, died September 14 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He was 66.

Born in what is now Slovakia, Dr. Laufer earned his MD from the University of Toronto in 1967.

Prior to coming to Penn, he was a clinical fellow at Harvard Medical School from 1969-1972, and then was assistant resident and chief resident at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. He served as an assistant professor of radiology at McMaster University in Toronto from 1974-76.

In 1976, he joined the faculty at Penn Medicine and quickly rose to the rank of full professor after only four years with the department. He was the chief of gastrointestinal radiology at HUP from 1976-1997, residency training director for the radiology department from 1993-2000 and its residency selection director from 1999-2004.
Dr. Laufer was known for pioneering the techniques for performing state-of-the-art double contrast GI radiology, and developing and refining double contrast studies for both the upper and lower gastrointestinal tracts. His work generated a resurgence of barium studies and a new era of double GI radiology.

He described findings for various inflammatory and neoplastic conditions and early GI cancers on barium studies. His seminal contributions had a profound influence on patient care, leading to earlier detection and treatment of everything from herpes esophagitis and inflammatory bowel disease to benign and malignant GI tumors.

He is the author of the classic text, Double Contrast Radiology of the Gastrointestinal Tract, which was published in 1979. He lectured widely and was an invited lecturer or visiting professor more than 400 times, including 16 named honorary lectures.

He was the president of the Society of the Gastrointestinal Radiologists from 1984-86, and was recognized by the society for his life’s work in 1991, when he was the recipient of its highest honor, the Walter B. Cannon Medal, for outstanding lifetime achievements in GI radiology.

He won the Outstanding Educator Award from the Philadelphia Roentgen Ray Society in 2005.

Dr. Laufer is survived by his wife, Bernice; a son, Jacob; daughter, Miriam, and a grandson.

Contributions in his memory may be made out to the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, Igor Laufer Fund, care of Bill Kirschner, HUP; One Silverstein, 3400 Spruce St., Philadelphia, PA 19104-4283.


Prof. Lerner, Law

Alan Lerner, practice professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, died October 7 from complications arising from lymphoma. He was 68.

Born in the Feltonville section of Philadelphia in 1942, Mr. Lerner was a graduate of Central High School before pursuing a BS in economics at the Wharton School. He played baseball while at Penn and graduated in 1962. He received his JD from the Penn Law School in 1965.

His passion for helping others was born out of a summer helping black residents in Mississippi register to vote in 1964, when he was a second year law student. After volunteering with the Law Students’ Civil Rights Research Council, he said he believed that helping people achieve their civil rights was the right thing to do.

An expert in family law, legal ethics, civil rights law, child welfare law and labor and employment law, among others, Professor Lerner joined the Penn Law School faculty in 1993 as an associate practice professor after a 25-year career with the law firm of Cohen, Shapiro, Polisher, Shiekman and Cohen. He was made practice professor in 1999.

Professor Lerner had been the leader of the Law School’s Interdisciplinary Child Advocacy Clinic since 2002. The clinic teaches students in law, social work and medicine to represent the interests of children in child maltreatment, disability, medical assistance and special education cases.

He was also co-director of Penn’s Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice and Research.

In addition, Professor Lerner volunteered his time with the American Civil Liberties Union and served on the board of advisors the Public Interest Law Center in Philadelphia and the Lower Merion School Board.

“With Alan’s passing, abused and neglected children have lost a powerful advocate; the civil rights bar has lost a skilled litigator; generations of law students have lost an amazing mentor; the Phillies have lost an ardent fan; and the entire Penn community has lost an inspirational teacher, scholar and role model,” said clinical director and practice professor of law, Louis Rulli.

Professor Lerner was recognized twice as one the “Best Lawyers in America” and was named a Bellow Scholar in 2007 by the Committee on Lawyering in the Public Interest of the Association of American Law Schools for his research project, “Identifying the Red Flags of Child Neglect to Facilitate Evidence-Based Focused Responses.”

He made many other scholarly contributions to his field and conducted workshops and presentations about clinical teaching theory and methods worldwide, including Argentina, China, Great Britain, Poland, Turkey, and Vietnam.

He is survived by his wife, Adelaide Ferguson; a son, Jason; daughter, Rachael; two brothers and three grandchildren.

Contributions in his memory may be made to the University of Pennsylvania Law Clinic, 3400 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104.

Almanac - October 19, 2010, Volume 57, No. 08