In Remembrance: Irving “Irv” Brazinsky ChE’58
POSTED ON: April 29, 2022
Words by Prof. Daniel Lepek ChE ’04 (former student and colleague of Prof. Brazinsky).
Irving Brazinsky, Professor of Chemical Engineering, Department Chair, Cooper Union Federation of College Teachers (CUFCT) President, Cooper Union Alumnus (1958), and passionate advocate for all the students, faculty, and staff of The Cooper Union, passed away at the age of 85 on April 14th, 2022.
Professor Brazinsky was born in 1936 less than a mile away from The Cooper Union at Beth Israel Hospital. His early education was obtained at public schools, yeshivas, and at the renowned Stuyvesant High School. He graduated from The Cooper Union in 1958 with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at the age of 21, which was then followed by graduate degrees at Lehigh University (Master’s Degree, M.S.) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Doctor of Science, Sc.D.). Prof. Brazinsky, an expert in thermodynamics, worked for many years in Cleveland at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Following his years in Cleveland, he returned to the East Coast, working in Boston and the New York / New Jersey metropolitan area at multiple companies, such as Polaroid, Celanese, and Foster-Wheeler. While in industry, he primarily worked as a design engineer; working on projects that even included designing chemical plants in Ireland to produce the sugar substitute Splenda. During this time, he also worked as an adjunct professor at the Newark College of Engineering (now known as New Jersey Institute of Technology), teaching courses on reactor design and catalysis.
Following a chance encounter with S.I. Cheng (another former Cooper Union chemical engineering professor), Prof. Brazinsky applied for a faculty position, was immediately hired, and in 1985 began a 27-year faculty career at The Cooper Union. Throughout this time, he frequently taught courses on Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics, and Heat Transfer, among many others. Prof. Brazinsky also worked on multiple research projects in these topical areas. One of these Master’s theses – The Cooper Cooler – resulted in a patent and a company spin-off (Revolutionary Cooling Systems).
“And between all the lectures of Heat Transfer and Thermodynamics, Irving loved to talk about his passion for sports. He had a way to take a dry and boring topic and then turn it into something fun.” - Greg Loibl, ChE’92 and ‘94
Prof. Brazinsky was also known for his deep dedication to The Cooper Union, and particularly for his support of the Scholar-Athlete Programs. A former student athlete himself, Prof. Brazinsky would frequently be found on the sidelines, or in the stands, attending student sporting events. Additionally, as a former student who also occasionally struggled with mastering engineering concepts, he would frequently make himself available for additional office hours at any time to work with students; ensuring that they properly learned the material, particularly from a deep conceptual viewpoint.
Prof. Brazinsky’s interests outside engineering were varied. He was passionate about military history, fond of classic Broadway musicals, and perhaps not surprisingly for a lifelong New Yorker – a dedicated fan of the New York Yankees. Former students might recall that his lectures were often peppered with diversions on these, and similar, topics. In addition, former colleagues might recall having animated conversations with Prof. Brazinsky on whatever topic was passionately on his mind at that moment.
Lastly, throughout Prof. Brazinsky’s varied career and longstanding association with The Cooper Union, perhaps one of his most recognizable traits was rooting for, and supporting, the underdog. Whether this trait, which rose to prominence during his time as the Department Chair of Chemical Engineering and past President of the CUFCT, originated from his time as an athlete is partly uncertain. What is certain, however, is that whenever a Cooper student, faculty member, or staff member needed some help or advice, Prof. Brazinsky was always there to support them with a steadfast guiding hand. With Prof. Brazinsky’s passing, The Cooper Union lost a long-time dedicated member of its community, and sends its condolences to all his family, friends, former students, and past colleagues.
Prof. Brazinsky’s obituary can be found here.
Quotes from a former student and colleague from The Cooper Union:
“Irv was always supportive to his students beyond the classroom. I want to personally thank Professor Brazinsky for allowing me to pursue a thesis as my own independent study. As one of my thesis advisors, his decision and guidance became a life changing endeavor, which is still on-going and fulfilling to this day.” - Greg Loibl, ChE’92 and ‘94
“When I first came to Cooper Union in 1993, I came to Irv to ask him about how my core assignments - teaching quantum mechanics and introductory thermodynamics - fit into the ChemE department's curriculum. He took time to explain to me how important these topics were as part of a chemical engineer's education, and how the subjects helped sharpen their analytical skills. Little did I know that by reaching out to him, I had opened the floodgates to hundreds of positive, warm and entertaining conversations about Cooper Union, New York, the Yankees, basketball, theater, family, Judaism...and little did I know that I'd become friends with one of the warmest, most generous people I've ever known. He mentored many other young faculty, not always in his own department, to successful careers. Before and since his passing, I've heard stories from many of his former students about how he impactfully gave them the advice they needed to succeed. He was completely student-centered in everything he did here. In short, Irv was a mensch who gave his all to Cooper Union. May his memory be a blessing for all of us who knew and loved him.” - Robert Q. Topper, Professor of Chemistry