Know your campus: Van Allen, scene of tragedy, success

BY MICHELE DANNO | MAY 04, 2009 7:30 AM

Van Allen Hall is often seen as a reminder of the 1991 shooting on the UI campus, but the building is famous for more than the gruesome event.

The building has been occupied by the physics/astronomy department since 1965; it was named after the famous astronomer James Van Allen.

Van Allen, a former professor and researcher at the UI, built instruments used in the first successful U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958. As a pioneer in astronomy, his instruments discovered bands of intense radiation surrounding the Earth — which are now known as Van Allen Belt.

People magazine named Van Allen one of the top 10 college professors in the nation in 1974. Some of his students went on to experiment on NASA’s Pioneer 10 and 11, Voyager 1 and 2, and Galileo and Cassini spacecraft.

The building houses two lecture halls, dozens of classrooms, the physics/astronomy library, and an observatory on the roof, used for introductory astronomy classes.

The observatory is open Monday through Thursday at 9 p.m. on clear nights, and a laboratory instructor is available to assist visitors. Two optical telescopes and a radio telescope are available to the public.

Van Allen Hall hosts the UI undergraduate student-run Automated Telescope Facility.

The building has also been the center of a tragedy.

In 1991, UI physics graduate student Gang Lu began his shooting rampage in Van Allen Hall. Then 28 years old, Lu shot and killed five people, leaving one seriously injured, before turning the gun on himself.

Lu wrote five letters in the months prior to the shootings explaining his reasoning. Lu’s rage stemmed from the fact that his doctoral dissertation did not win the D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize, a prestigious award.

Among the victims was T. Anne Cleary, the UI assistant vice president for academic affairs at the time, who died the day after the shooting. A walkway on campus is named in her honor.

comments powered by Disqus
Daily Iowan Advertising
Today's Display Ads | Today's Classifieds | Advertising Info

Sponsored Links  
T-Shirt Design  
Insurance Leads Charlotte Web Design
Health Insurance Leads Home Equity Loans
Home Service Guides  
Life Insurance DMI Furniture
Custom Magnets Buy a text ad

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.