AUSTIN Charles Arthur Sorber "Chuck," died suddenly in New York City on Friday, October 18, 2013, at the age of 74. Chuck was born Sept. 12, 1939, in Kingston, PA, the first of the five children of public school teachers, Merritt W. and Marjory R. Sorber. In his teens, he was a very talented trumpeter, playing in the high school band starting in the 6th grade…until football came along. He enjoyed football in high school, playing on both the offensive and defensive lines. But he always wanted to be an engineer. Some colleges would not let him study engineering and play football, so he started his college education at Wilkes College, in Wilkes-Barre, PA, and then transferred to The Pennsylvania State University, graduating with a B.S. in Sanitary Engineering in 1961. He was a registered professional engineer in Pennsylvania and Texas. After graduation, he entered the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps as an environmental engineer. He was sent to France during the Berlin Crisis in 1961, and then to Heidelberg, Germany, in 1963. He resigned his regular Army commission and returned to the U.S. in 1965 in order to pursue his M.S. in Sanitary Engineering in 1966 at Penn State. After completion of his degree, he regained his regular Army commission and was stationed at Ft. Sam Houston, TX, and Edgewood Arsenal, MD, but he wanted to earn his Ph.D. This was during the Vietnam years and the Army would not send him to get it until he had served in that arena, so he said "put me on the list." Shortly thereafter, the Army notified him that he would, indeed, be sent to get the Ph.D., and he came to The University of Texas at Austin, where he met and married Linda Babcock, a law school student. After their graduations and marriage, he was stationed at Edgewood Arsenal, MD, and Ft. Detrick, MD, where he commanded the U.S. Army Medical Environmental Research Unit. He left active duty in 1975, but remained in the reserves from which he was retired as a Lt. Colonel. For his service, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters.|
In 1975, he and Linda began their service in academia as faculty members at The University of Texas at San Antonio, when it first moved onto its new campus in three buildings. There, he initiated the Center for Applied Research and Technology in the College of Science and Mathematics and developed coursework that would eventually lead to an engineering program at UTSA. In 1980, he became Associate Dean of Engineering for Academic Affairs in the College of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. During this period he worked to develop televised engineering coursework, so that San Antonio students could take UT Austin courses remotely. In 1986, he was appointed Dean of the School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, where he led an active development initiative and increased research funding in the School. In 1993, he and Linda were called by The University of Texas System to return to Texas, where he became President of The University of Texas of the Permian Basin, and where, again, he initiated an active development program and worked with the Legislature for funding for needed classroom space, art studios, library space and student housing. Another major activity was the initiation of REACH (Regional Electronic Academic Communications Highway), to provide distance education to the outlying constituencies in the large Permian Basin area. He left UTPB in 2001, but remained with The University of Texas System offices, involved in various aspects of developing relationships between the System and Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory. In 2003-04, he was asked to relocate to Arlington, TX, to serve as Interim President of The University of Texas at Arlington. In 2007-08, The University of Texas at Austin asked him to serve as Special Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs in reorganizing the Office of Student Financial Aid. In 2009-10, the UT System called on him again, to relocate to the Rio Grande Valley to serve as Interim President of The University of Texas-Pan American.
During all of his professional career, he was active in a wide range of professional organizations, including the Water Environment Federation, an international organization devoted to water quality issues involving waste waters, serving on numerous committees, and as an officer, including as its president in 1992-93. He was active in the America Water Works Association, an organization principally devoted to clean water supply. Chuck was active internationally, serving as Chairman of the Jury for the Stockholm Junior Water Prize and as a member of the Stockholm Water Symposium Scientific Programme Committee. He served the U.S. Center for Disease Control as a member of the Board of Scientific Advisors of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Other professional activities are too numerous to mention.
His honors and awards include Diplomate of American Academy of Environmental Engineers, a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Men and Women of Science, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, and Who's Who in Engineering. He was the author/coauthor of over 150 scientific research articles/presentations in refereed journals, publications or conference proceedings. Chuck was proud to be named a Distinguished Alumnus of the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and a member of the Hall of Achievement of the College of Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University.
He loved his family deeply, especially being "Pop" to his grandson and going to his basketball games, and being "Uncle Chuckie" to his nieces and nephews. He served his country admirably; he served his employers with selfless dedication; he served his community and those less fortunate with love. In his retirement years, he relished traveling to the far corners of the earth, usually with a "family doctor." Another enthusiasm, in addition to traveling, was his interest in and knowledge of wines. He and Linda enjoyed volunteering two days a week at St. David's South Austin Medical Center in Austin, where he would push wheelchairs, deliver flowers or do whatever was asked of him, and he routinely worked with his church to support its food pantry mission. He was a great and good friend, always a listener and fact gatherer, a mentor to many, an incomparable host, a model of integrity, and a wise counselor and confidante.
He is survived by his wife Linda, their daughter Kimberly and grandson Stephen Schirmer, of Austin; siblings Melinda Sorber Graham and husband Homer of Salisbury, MD; William A. Sorber, MD, Ph.D., and wife Sally of Corning, NY; David A. Sorber, MD and wife Rosalind of Madison, WI. Nieces and nephews include Ned and John Graham, Alan Sorber and Melinda June Sorber, Abraham Sorber and Lillian Sorber. He was predeceased by his parents, his youngest brother, Jon A. Sorber, MD, and his son-in-law, Matthew Schirmer.
In lieu of flowers, those interested in honoring Chuck might consider charitable contributions to causes important to him: The Sorber Endowed Presidential Scholarship at Development Office, UTPB, 4901 E. University Blvd., Odessa, TX 79762; the Sorber Excellence Endowment in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, 301 E. Dean Keeton St., C2100, Austin, TX 78712-2100; the Sorber Trustees Scholarship at the College of Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, 101 Hammond Building, University Park, PA 16802, or an animal rescue
The family will receive visitors on Sunday, Oct. 27, from 3 – 5 p.m. at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 3125 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX. Funeral services will be held on Monday, Oct. 28, at 2 p.m. at Westlake United Methodist Church, 1460 Red Bud Trail, Austin, TX 78746. Interment will be private.
Arrangements by Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 3125 North Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX, 512/452-8811. You may view memorials at www.wcfish.com.
Published in Odessa American on Oct. 23, 2013