In an e-mail sent to the University community yesterday, UR President Joel Seligman announced the death of senior Travis Acker. Acker, a student in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, was found in his residence on Highland Ave. in Brighton on Tuesday.
“My heartfelt condolences go out to Travis’s parents, sister and friends, and to the students, faculty and staff in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences,” Seligman said in the e-mail. “Tragedies like this make us realize how much being part of a community matters.”
The message also noted that Acker’s family was notified of his death on Tuesday and that Seligman met with his parents yesterday. A cause of death has not yet been determined, and autopsy results may not be available for up to two weeks, according to Acting Dean of Students Matthew Burns.
Acker, 27, graduated from Malvern Preparatory Academy in Phoenixville, Pa. before coming to UR. He was planning to finish a degree in electrical and computer engineering in December.
Acker was a laboratory teaching assistant and graded lab abstracts in engineering professor Thomas Jones’s Introduction to Signals and Circuits class in the fall of 2007. Jones said he asked Acker to take on the role because of the impressive writing skills Acker showed when he was a student of Jones’s.
“He was an amazingly articulate man and an engaging conversationalist,” Jones said. “He was really a good guy to have in the lab. He could fix stuff that no one else could. He was important to us.”
The ECE Department Chair Mark Bocko also knew Acker through his coursework and described some of his hobbies in the lab.
“Travis and I had developed a good friendship over the years,” Bocko said. “He loved to collect and to tinker with electronic musical instruments and we would have long, non-technical talks about topics like vintage synthesizers and electric guitars. He often would bring old electronic keyboards and other electronic gizmos to my lab to show me and we’d try to fix or modify them.”
Assistant Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Lisa Norwood, who served as Acker’s adviser, said he took on every challenge that came at him, both in and out of the academic setting.
“Travis persevered despite everything that life threw at him,” she said. “He used his support systems well here, and he wasn’t ashamed about it. He was always very appreciative of our help. Whether he was having a bad day or a good day, he was always looking to cheer other people up.”
She also spoke of his unique activities outside of school.
“He was a rugged individual,” Norwood said. “The type of stuff he loved doing was exploratory caving, mountain climbing, tent camping in the winter. The crazier it sounded, the more he wanted to do it.”
He also worked as a girls’ gymnastics coach at the Gymnastics Training Center in Penfield.
“He greatly enjoyed teaching gymnastics to children,” Bocko said. “He was extremely proud of his pupils.”
The Gymnastics Training Center will hold a funeral service on Sunday, March 30 at 1 p.m. The center is located at 2051 Fairport-Nine Mile Point Road, and directions can be found on their Web site, http://www.gtc-rochester.com. A memorial is also planned in Landsdale, Pa. on Sunday from 6 to 7 p.m. Condolences can be sent online at http://www.crawfordfuneralhome.com, which also includes details on the services. The University flag has been lowered to half-mast through today to honor Acker’s memory.
Moeller is a member of the class of 2009.