Juan Ramon Ortiz

Age: 26

Class: Masters Student (first year)

Major: Civil Engineering (Water Resources)

Hometown: Bayamon, PR

Previous Education: BS, Civil Engineering (Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico) - 2005

Married (in 8/06)

Died along with Prof. Loganathan and 8 other students in Advanced Hydrology class.

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Newspaper Remembrance Stories

He Found Joy in Everything He Did
(Roanoke Times Profile)

Juan Ramon Ortiz Ortiz found joy in everything he did whether it was studying the complexities of engineering or whimsically playing the drums, said his wife, Liselle Vega Cortes.

"He loved life and he didn’t deserve this," she said, choking up.

Ortiz, 26, a graduate student in civil engineering, was in Dr. G.V. Loganathan’s hydrology class in Norris Hall when they were killed by the Virginia Tech shooter.

Ortiz was from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and Cortes, 28, also was a graduate engineering student from Puerto Rico. They met in a class at the Polytechnic University there in 2001. They were married in October.

They decided to enroll at Virginia Tech after visiting several different universities. He was going to major in water resources, while she studied geotechnical engineering.

"We wanted a place where we could both be able to study and we came here in 2003 and again last year because the university invited us in August," Cortes said. "We liked the program that they offered here."

Ortiz was pursuing a masters in water resources because he dreamed of designing dams.

He also was a member of a family music band in Puerto Rico, where he played the timbal, a lightweight drum made of wood or metal.

"He was studious, but he was also happy all the time," Cortes said. "He liked to play basketball and he loved to play the timbal.

"He didn’t deserve to die like this."

— Pamela Podger (Roanoke Times, 3/18/07)

New York Times Profile:

Juan Ortiz had been in the United States for barely a year, but the life and the family that he had always envisioned for himself were already taking shape.

A native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Mr. Ortiz, 26, had graduated magna cum laude at Polytechnic University in San Juan and had just gotten married. He arrived at Virginia Tech in August and was pursuing a graduate degree in civil engineering. He told friends and relatives that he and his wife, Liselle Vega Cortes, who came with him from Puerto Rico and was also enrolled at Virginia Tech as a civil engineering student, were making plans to have a child. His ultimate goal was to become a teacher.

He was teaching a class in Norris Hall when he was killed.

"He was an extraordinary son," his father, Juan Ramon, told The Associated Press. "On his wedding day, I told him what I felt in my heart. I thanked him for being my son. It was special."

When Mr. Ortiz came to the United States, he joined a sister, Rosa Martinez, who was already in the country working at a Washington Mutual branch in Orlando. A spokeswoman for the bank said that an account had been set up to support the Ortiz family, and that anyone wishing to contribute to it could stop by any branch and make a deposit to the "Juan Ortiz" fund, account No. 3400373241.

Grad student, tutor always there to help
USAToday Profile

Juan Ramon Ortiz, 26, was a graduate student in engineering who got married about a year ago to Liselle Vega Cortes.

"He's an excellent son, an excellent cousin, an excellent brother and an excellent human being," said his cousin, Iveliz Ortiz Cordero. She said Ortiz helped tutor friends at school because "he lived to help other people."

Ortiz lived with his parents until he left Bayamón, Puerto Rico, a year ago to attend Virginia Tech, where his wife worked.

"We never thought that he'd go to the United States to die," said his cousin. "The whole family is destroyed."

Washington Post Profile:

Juan Ramon Ortiz was studious and serious, but he also loved salsa and played the timbales.

The 26-year-old from Puerto Rico came to Virginia Tech in August 2006 to earn a master's degree in civil engineering. His wife, Liselle Vega Cortes, 28, also an engineering student, came, too. They settled into a small apartment near campus.

They spent most nights studying. When they need a break, they watched action movies.

"We were both very committed to our studies," Cortes said. "We didn't go out very often."

Monday began like any other for the couple. They drove to campus, said goodbye and headed to different classes. When Cortes heard about the shootings, she began a frantic search for her husband.

"I tried to reach him by phone and e-mail and I couldn't," she said. "I started looking at each hospital, and I couldn't find him." That evening, she learned he had been killed.

The couple met a few years ago as students at Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico in San Juan. She caught his eye in a class, and soon they were dating. They married in October 2005.

Polytechnic University President Ernesto Vazquez Barquet said Ortiz was president of the university's chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers and, as a senior, tutored younger students. He graduated magna cum laude and worked for a year before he and his wife came to Virginia Tech.

Cortes said she returned to the apartment for a few moments, but it was too difficult to stay.

"I love him," she said. "I still love him with all my heart."

-- Maria Glod, The Washington Post

Chronicle of Higher Education Profile:

Juan Ramon Ortiz Ortiz, 26, showed a predisposition to engineering at an early age, says his cousin, Oscar Marrero. Growing up together in Puerto Rico, Mr. Marrero noticed that his cousin was always trying to figure out how things worked and how they were put together.

“He always wanted to know everything,” Mr. Marrero says.

That innate curiosity helped him earn an engineering degree from Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico and sent him to Blacksburg, where he was working on his master’s in civil engineering at Virginia Tech. He was interested in environmental issues, concentrating his studies on water resources.

At Virginia Tech, Mr. Ortiz worked as a teaching assistant for another one of the victims, G.V. Loganathan, a professor of civil and environmental engineering.

When not hitting the books, Mr. Ortiz was a music lover who would play the timbales, a type of drum, in musicals with friends and family. He also enjoyed salsa dancing.

Aside from that, though, he did not socialize much while living in Blacksburg. He spent most of his time either with his studies or his wife, Liselle Vega Cortes.

“He was a house boy,” Mr. Marrero says. “He never smoked or drank.”

His wife was also an engineering graduate student at Virginia Tech. They met and fell in love in college in Puerto Rico and married a year and a half ago.

“She was in another classroom,” Mr. Marrero says, “at the moment of the massacre.”

—Dan Carnevale

'He was an extraordinary son, what any father would have wanted'
The Orlando Sentinel (Florida)

A Central Florida woman is grieving the loss of her brother in the Virginia Tech massacre: Juan Ramon Ortiz, a 26-year-old engineering student who had recently left Puerto Rico to get a graduate degree.

Rosa Ortiz works at a Washington Mutual branch in southeast Orlando, where a manager said the bank has rallied behind her, creating an account to help the family.

Ortiz could not be reached for comment, but her father, also named Juan Ramon Ortiz, said in Puerto Rico that his son had been shot while teaching a class as part of his graduate program in civil engineering.

The senior Ortiz told the San Juan-based newspaper El Nuevo Dia that he had called his son's cell phone more than 100 times after hearing about the shootings, ultimately realizing that something had gone terribly wrong.

"He was an extraordinary son, what any father would have wanted," Ortiz told The Associated Press.

The victim had left Puerto Rico only months earlier with his wife, Liselle Vega Cortes, another Virginia Tech student whom he married a little more than a year ago, according to news reports. They had moved out of Puerto Rico to pursue advanced degrees.

Back in Orlando, bank manager Miguel Maldonado said Ortiz's sister was taking time off and was not ready to speak about her loss.

"It's a very difficult moment, and we want to preserve the family's privacy," Maldonado said.

Nova Barnett, a Washington Mutual spokeswoman in Atlanta, said the benevolent account to support the Ortiz family would be open to donations from the general public.

Anyone wishing to contribute, Barnett said, could do so at any Washington Mutual branch by making a deposit to the "Juan Ortiz" account, No. 3400373241.

Neighbors in the San Juan suburb of Bayamon remembered Ortiz as a quiet, dedicated son who decorated his parents' one-story house each Christmas and played in a salsa band with his father.

Marilys Alvarez, 22, heard Ortiz's mother scream from the house next door when she learned of her son's death. Alvarez said she had wanted to study in the mainland United States but is now reconsidering.

"Here the violence is bad, but you don't see that," she said. "It's really sad. You can't go anywhere now."

By Victor Manuel Ramos, Staff Writer
April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech Magazine Profile (5/07)

Juan Ramón Ortiz-Ortiz was born on Feb. 4, 1981, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was the youngest of the three sons of Juan Ramón and Brunilda Ortiz. He also has two sisters, Rosa Nilda and Rosa Angélica.

During his childhood, Juan was known for his energy and happiness. He loved to play, loved being with his family, and improvised special plays each year for his parents’ birthdays.

Juan started his education at the Colegio Corazón de María in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Two years later, he changed schools and enrolled in the Colegio Nuestra Señora de Belén, in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, from which he graduated 10 years later. He joined school basketball and baseball teams and also participated in track and field. He became a big fan of Michael Jordan. A member of the National Honor Society during his high school years, he participated in the Presidential Classroom of America in 1998. When he graduated from high school, he decided to pursue a career in civil engineering.

In 1999, Juan started his undergraduate studies in civil engineering at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico. Two years later, he met his future wife, Liselle Vega, while they were taking classes together. His college years were characterized by his excellent academic performance and his love for the environment. He also belonged to the American Water Works Association, Water Environmental Federation, Colegio de Ingenieros y Agrimensores de Puerto Rico, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and American Society of Civil Engineers, for which he served as chapter president for two years. During his presidency, Juan planned field trips and student activities to help increase the involvement of students in civil engineering. The student chapter increased its membership significantly and took part, for the first time, in the college newspaper generated by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He was also part of the University Honor Board and a member of the Middle States Association for Colleges and Schools Curriculum Committee for the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico. During his last year in college, he worked as a physics and engineering tutor, helping students with their course work and encouraging them to give their best.

Outside school, Juan was part of a family music group, playing the timbales. He loved music, particularly salsa. His family remembers him for his perseverance; dedication; patience; responsibility; and, most importantly, his smile.

His love for God also filled his life. He was involved in several Catholic activities throughout all his school years. While in college, he and his wife joined a choir in which he played the timbales.

His desire to pursue a master’s degree in civil engineering at Virginia Tech began long ago. In 2003, he and his wife came to Tech to meet the faculty and to get to know the water resources and geotechnical programs. Juan received his bachelor of science in civil engineering in 2005 and returned to Virginia Tech in February of 2006 to attend the water resources and environmental engineering open house. Juan and his wife, Liselle, started the master’s program together in August 2006 and were scheduled to complete their degrees in December 2007. During his time at Virginia Tech, Juan enjoyed being a research and teaching assistant and sharing his love for sports with his friends. Professor G.V. Loganathan was his mentor.

Juan’s life was characterized by his love for his family and his desire to become a better person each day. He lived his life with great intensity, as if each day was his very last. He changed the life of everyone he met and filled it with love and happiness. He will be remembered forever for his passion for civil engineering, family, and life.

Memorial Scholarship

Through the Virginia Tech Foundation, the Juan Ramon Ortiz Memorial Scholarship has been established at Virginia Tech in his memory. For more information and/or to donate to this memorial fund, see VT's Hokie Spirit Memorial Funds page.