Cooper Union is Grateful to the estate of Wolfgang S. Homburger (CE'50)

November 08, 2012

Wolfgang S. Homburger

Wolfgang S. Homburger (1926 – 2010) remembered The Cooper Union throughout his life by contributing generously and including the institution in his estate plans.   This year, the full-tuition scholarships for six civil engineering students are being underwritten as a result of a generous gift from Homburger’s estate.

“For a person who was stateless for over half his life at the time (the Nazis had stripped him of citizenship in 1935 leaving him without a home country until his naturalization in 1951), being accepted by such a renowned institution as The Cooper Union brought him a profound sense of belonging again,” says his son Paul, adding that “Cooper Union was always a prominent factor in his life, giving him the education and opportunity to achieve and succeed as a civil engineer.  He always remembered how his education had been funded, and he made sure that he would continue this legacy for others.”

Homburger was a 1950 civil engineering graduate.  He became well known for his expertise in traffic engineering in California.  For 35 years, Homburger was a research engineer at the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) at UC Berkeley, where he researched traffic and transit design and management.  When he retired in 1990, he was Assistant Director of ITS, had taught thousands of undergraduate and graduate students and transportation professionals, lectured all over the world, and written, among others, a popular textbook, Fundamentals of Traffic Engineering, which is in its sixteenth printing and is still widely used today. 

In 1997, the Institute of Transportation Engineers, a national professional organization, honored him with the Wilbur S. Smith Distinguished Transportation Educator Award.  The award recognizes those who have made an outstanding contribution to the transportation profession by relating academic studies to the actual practice of transportation.

 “Mention the name Wolfgang S. Homburger to anyone involved in traffic engineering in the state of California and in all probability he or she will have attended one of his classes,” the award citation read, “thousands of students have taken his clear and concise lectures on traffic and/or transit design and management.”

Homburger was born in Karlsruhe, Germany on December 18, 1926.  In 1939, his parents sent him to England as part of the last Kindertransport, a rescue mission that sent thousands of Jewish children to the United Kingdom where they were placed in foster homes to keep them safe during World War II.  He spent the war years attending boarding school at Eastbourne College, although that school was evacuated and the students were housed at Radley College near Oxford.  Later he taught younger students at a school that had been relocated to Deudraeth Castle, in northern Wales.  Throughout his life, he loved returning to that part of the country.

Tau Beta Ti picture with Wolfgang Homburger

As a young man, he immigrated to the United States where he reunited with his parents in New York City.  He received his Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from The Cooper Union in 1950, and a Master’s of Science in Civil Engineering from UC Berkeley in 1951.  He was naturalized in 1951 and served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 1951 to 1955, working first as a construction and pavement design engineer and later on active duty with stints in Japan and Korea.

In 1958, Homburger married the late Arlene Levinson, whom he met at International House at UC Berkeley. They had a son and daughter. 

Besides traffic engineering, he was passionate about music, and he and his wife were committed supporters of Neve Shalom-Wahat Al-Salam, a village in Israel where Jewish and Arab families live together in a peace-building effort.

Information from article written by Christine Cosgrove, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Berkeley

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.