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Slain UCLA Professor William Klug Was a Father of Two, 'Brilliant' Teacher

by Elizabeth Chuck /  / Updated 
Image:
Sheriff deputies work at the scene of a fatal shooting at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), on Wednesday, June 1, 2016, in Los Angeles. Around 2:00 PM, gunfire erupted at Boelter Hall on the Westwood campus, according to a statement released by UCLA. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) soon confirmed two people were killed in a murder-suicide, though details regarding the victims are not immediately available, and no arrests have been reported.Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP

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The UCLA professor killed in an apparent murder-suicide Wednesday was a "brilliant" teacher, a devoted father, and a friendly face to students, according to those who knew him.

William Klug died in a shooting at a UCLA engineering building, multiple law enforcement sources said. Police on Thursday identified the shooter to NBC Los Angeles as Mainak Sarkar, a former engineering doctoral student.

Tributes immediately poured in for Klug, a mechanical and aerospace engineering professor described by California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in a tweet as an "empathetic, brilliant teacher."

The father of two young children was known simply as "Coach" to the El Segundo Little League, where he had volunteered for the past several years.

"Bill's assistant coaches, players and team family, along with the entire league, are trying to make sense of this horrifying and violent tragedy," the El Segundo Little League wrote on Facebook. Friends gathered at the El Segundo park where Klug and his son played to mourn him Wednesday afternoon, NBC Los Angeles reported.

The league plans to hold a moment of silence on Saturday and asked for donations to be made to the Klug family. A GoFundMe page for the Klugs had already raised more than $16,000 Thursday morning.

Klug got his undergraduate degree from Westmont College, a Christian liberal arts school in Santa Barbara, California, in 1998. It was there he met his wife, Mary Elise Richter Klug, according to a 2004 profile of him in the college's magazine. He told the magazine she was the one who encouraged him to become a professor.

His shocked students told NBC Los Angeles that Klug was an approachable professor who always made time for them.

"He was always there for us. I just really appreciate him being that type of person there when I’m in trouble doing my project or having trouble figuring out a problem," said Renjie Li, who took a computer science class with Klug. "He’s definitely one of my favorite professors here at UCLA."

Klug's areas of interests were highly cerebral — a recent piece of research he authored was titled “Unlocking Internal Prestress from Protein Nanoshells,” according to his UCLA bio — but those who knew him said he was unfailingly humble.

Ken Kihlstrom, a college professor of Klug's, called him as a "gentle, kind person without a trace of arrogance," according to a statement from Westmont President Gayle Beebe.

Religion was important to Klug, who made a point of combining his love of science with his faith-based beliefs.

“I intend to keep reevaluating my faith and to maintain a list of reasons for what I believe. I refuse to be afraid to evaluate new evidence,” he told Westmont Magazine in 2004. “Knowing there is a God responsible for the world makes a big difference in my motivation to understand it better.”

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