Renowned Stanford physicist Joel Ferziger dies at 67

A Stanford University professor world renowned for his pioneering work in physics had a local claim to fame as well: He was the designer and builder of his synagogue’s chuppah, which is still in use today.

Joel Henry Ferziger of Palo Alto died on Monday, Aug. 16, of pancreatic cancer. He was 67.

Ferziger was born March 24, 1937, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of a dress cutter and a homemaker. Even as a child, he had a strong interest in science. At 15, he began college at the Cooper Union, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1957.

Ferziger studied nuclear engineering at the University of Michigan, as a National Science Foundation Fellow, where he received his master’s degree in 1959 and his doctorate degree in 1962.

He married Harriett Gluckstein in 1961; they divorced in 1989.

Ferziger became a member of the Stanford University faculty in 1961 at the age of 24. He described his 43-year career at Stanford as his “dream job” and one in which he could “make a nice salary for having a good time and doing work of one’s own choosing.”

During his career at Stanford, Ferziger authored more than 100 archival journal articles and a number of highly regarded books related to the field of nuclear engineering and computational fluid dynamics. He received numerous awards and honors throughout his career.

Ferziger was an early member of Palo Alto’s Congregation Kol Emeth. In fact, its daily minyan was started in his living room, when he and three other members were all saying Kaddish for their parents simultaneously.

He served as Kol Emeth’s president in the 1970s.

In 1995 he married his second wife, Eva Marsh, under the chuppah Ferziger made for the congregation. His daughter Shoshanah and her husband Collin were married under it as well.

Ferziger was also known for his passion for both gourmet cooking and for wine, and frequently hosted gatherings for his students, family and friends. He also traveled widely.

Ferziger is survived by his wife, Eva, of Palo Alto; daughters Ruth Ferziger of San Jose, Shoshanah Cohen of Menlo Park and Susan Kramer of San Francisco; and two grandchildren. He was predeceased by his daughter Miriam Ferziger.

Donations can be made to the Miriam Judith Ferziger Fund at Congregation Kol Emeth, 4175 Manuela Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306; The American Cancer Society, 201 Mission St. No. 720, S.F., CA 94105; or The American Red Cross, Bay Area Chapter, 85 Second St., eighth floor, S.F., CA 94105.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."