Aerospace Engineering professor passes away after battle with lung cancer

By Stephanie Shenouda, Daily News Editor
Published September 22, 2014

Students and faculty in the aerospace engineering department are mourning the loss of a teacher and colleague after Prof. Pierre T. Kabamba lost his battle with lung cancer Saturday, Sept. 20. He was 59 years old.

Kabamba came to the University in 1983 after receiving his undergraduate degree in Belgium and his doctorate from Columbia University. In the winter of 2013, Kabamba visited the doctor for what he thought was pneumonia, only to discover he had stage 4 lung cancer, which forced him to stop teaching. His health was reportedly improving and Kabamba was scheduled to teach two classes this term, before deciding in late August that his health wouldn’t allow it.

Kabamba taught Introduction to Aerospace Engineering and an advanced design course involving space and aircrafts. Additionally, he did research in controls design and scheduling operations, and addressed problems associated with spacecraft.

Prof. Dan Inman, the Aerospace Engineering department chair, said he worked with Kabamba at the beginning of his career and even offered him his first job at another institution. Inman also interacted with Kabamba after coming to the University three years ago. He described Kabamba as a dedicated teacher and respected scholar.

“He was a very kind and generous person,” Inman said. “His students were always at the center of his attention, and he was a very graceful human being.”

He said one of his fondest memories of Kabamba was from when he challenged a student to an arm wrestling contest and posted the video on Youtube.

Engineering junior Sam Reed took Kabamba’s Introduction to Aerospace class during his sophomore year, and said Kabamba’s passion for teaching was apparent in his lectures.

"He was always really energetic and excited about what he was doing and made sure that we understood how everything worked,” Reed said. “He did a good job covering the building blocks of aero (space engineering) and you could tell he was really passionate about teaching.”

Though he had already set his sights on an aerospace major, Reed said Kabamba’s class gave him his first glimpse at what his life as an aerospace engineer would look like.

“With just a few equations you can plot an entire journey of an aircraft, and I’ve always thought that was really cool," he said. “His class kind of showed me the first steps of what I want to do with my life.”

Kabamba is survived by his wife and three children.

There will be a visitation today at the Nie Funeral Home at 3767 W. Liberty Road in Ann Arbor. Friends, colleagues and students are invited to come and share their memories of Kabamba, with a sharing starting at 6 p.m.