On Nov. 7, 2001, PAW profiled 13 alumni killed in the terrorist attacks two months earlier. A garden on campus later was created to honor the alumni; it’s in this garden that community members have come together each September 11 to recall the lives of those who died. On every anniversary, a bronze bell created by former visual arts professor Toshiko Takaezu and titled “Remembrance” has been struck 13 times.
The University learned only recently that another alum was killed in the attacks: Philip Guza, who received a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1972 after earning his bachelor’s degree at Lehigh University. He was 54 and an insurance executive at Aon Risk Services on the 105th floor of the south tower when he died. According to information posted online by family members, he had called to reassure them he was well after the first plane hit the north tower — and then returned to work. Colleagues who evacuated the building said he was last seen at his desk, crunching numbers.
A eulogy written collectively by family members paints a picture of a man I wish I had known: opinionated, compassionate, unafraid to follow his own path, and full of contradictions. “This man who earned his Ph.D. with a dissertation entitled ‘Finite Groups Having Fixed-Point-Free Automorphism of Prime Order’ was strangely resistant to making use of new technologies. ... Here’s a quote that pretty much sums up his attitude: ‘Why should I use Windows when I can do everything I need in DOS?’”
Guza loved bowling and crabbing and played chess, Scrabble, and golf. His filing system was fastidious, his family wrote; his housekeeping ... not so much. (His family loved that “he kept his moped in the living room, right next to the crab traps.”) He liked saving money and hated wasting time. He enjoyed eating chips and pickled herring, and put Tabasco sauce on everything. His standard uniform, Guza’s family wrote, “was a cross between a Wall Street businessman and an Arkansas pig farmer.” He was a mediocre athlete but an exceptionally patient teacher. His pride in his two sons was boundless.
In 2010, his family created the Phil Guza Memorial Scholarship in his honor, awarded to high school seniors who will pursue math or science in college, particularly those from the working-class neighborhood in Philadelphia where he grew up. Information is available at www.philguzamemorial.org.
It’s not clear why Princeton did not know about Guza’s death until this year. Family members could not be reached for comment.
Come September, when we gather again in the memorial garden, the “Remembrance” bell will toll, 14 times.