Benjamin Koo (1920-2018)

Benjamin Koo
Benjamin Koo

Benjamin Koo, a professor emeritus of civil engineering at the University of Toledo who was an inventor and designed dams and bridges before his teaching career, died Thursday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue. He was 97.

His niece Margery Koo Bussey attributed this death to old age. He was not in ill health, she said.

Mr. Koo, of Sylvania Township and formerly of West Toledo, visited his office in the UT department of civil and environmental engineering long past retirement. He encouraged Asian and other international students in their studies and professional pursuits, his niece said.

“That was very important for him,” she said.

In 1998, he was a co-author of a paper, “Effective And Efficient Means To Prepare International Students For U.S. Engineering/Technical Education,” presented at a conference of the American Society for Engineering Education. 

His dedication to teaching matched his dedication to engineering, said George Murnen, a professor emeritus of civil engineering. 

“As an engineer, he was very conscientious. He would look at every little detail,” Mr. Murnen said.  

Gerald Frederick, also an emeritus professor, added: “He was polite and compassionate and cared about his students.”

UT hired him in 1965. He was named an “outstanding teacher” of the university in 1974.

“I remember him as being a really friendly guy and fun to be around,” said Carlton Schroeder of Eagle River, Wis., now retired as a civil engineer, who was a graduate student at UT when Mr. Koo arrived.

Hai Chang Benjamin Koo was born April 4, 1920, in Shanghai, China, the youngest of Ve-Sing and Tseng Soo Koo’s five children. He received a degree in civil engineering in 1941 from the prestigious St. John’s University in Shanghai, from which his brother Anthony, an economist, graduated the previous year. He also followed his brother to the United States for graduate studies and received master’s and doctoral degrees in structural engineering from Cornell University. 

Mr. Koo’s brother found academic life early, teaching at what is now Michigan State University from 1950 onward. He died June 6, 2011. 

Mr. Koo became a registered professional engineer in Ohio and New York. Work for engineering firms led to his designing dams and spillways and bridges both concrete and steel. He was listed as inventor on patents assigned to ACF Industries Inc. for a type of rail freight car. 

He was a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He was a member of the American Concrete Institute and American Society for Engineering Education. 

Professional journals published his work in structural engineering and other specialties, including Fire Technology, which in 1982 featured his article, “Decision analysis in fire safety inspection for high-rise buildings.”

He and the former Gretchen Hsu, a native of Hong Kong, married in 1955. She died Aug. 18, 1974. They did not have children.

“He was extremely devoted to his wife and never remarried,” his niece said. “You can imagine, he adored her.”

There are no immediate survivors. 

Services will be at noon Wednesday in the Walker Funeral Home, Sylvania Township.

Tributes are suggested to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. 

Contact Mark Zaborney at or 419-724-6182.