In memory: Jorge Alberto Ramírez

Jorge Alberto Ramírez, professor of Civil Engineering at Colorado State University, died on Saturday, March 28, in Fort Collins, surrounded by family. He was 65 years old.

Jorge was born in Manizales, Colombia, the son of Alberto Ramírez and Amparo Rodríguez. He was the oldest of six children. When he was still a child, his family moved to Medellín, Colombia, where he and his siblings – four brothers and one sister – grew up. Jorge excelled in school and had a particular love of the sciences. For college, he went to Universidad Nacional, Facultad de Minas, where he studied civil engineering before obtaining a graduate fellowship to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He married, and he and his wife, Gloria Vallejo, moved to Boston to begin a new chapter. Jorge earned his Master’s in Civil Engineering at MIT (1984), and later his PhD in hydrometeorology (1988), also at MIT. During this time, he and Gloria had three sons.

After an associate professorship at Universidad Nacional in Medellín, and a research associateship at NASA in Huntsville, Alabama, Jorge joined the faculty of engineering at CSU in 1990. Over the course of 30 years at CSU he became a leader in the field of hydrology and water resource management. He was organizer of the annual Hydrology Days conference at CSU for more than 20 years, bringing together researchers from across the world.

He had a passion for teaching and spreading knowledge, winning several undergraduate teaching awards, and mentoring numerous Ph.D. students who went on to illustrious academic and professional careers. His research and teaching extended to the whole world, taking him to Egypt, India, Mali, Switzerland, Italy, South Korea, and Vietnam, among other countries. Jorge took great joy in these travels; he drew inspiration from interacting with a diverse population of young people with eager minds. His Ph.D. student Jonathan Quebbeman wrote, “every interaction with Jorge was an opportunity for honest and challenged thought creating new perspective – you couldn’t help but become a better person by engaging with Jorge.”

Jorge was an avid cyclist. On Saturdays you would find him climbing the mountains of Colorado on his road bicycle along with his cycling companions, Tom and Rita. He poured passion and intensity into everything he did. His favorite ride was the 12-mile ascent of Rist Canyon and its life-affirming descent. Late in 2016, he began to notice that he could no longer crank up the mountain as usual. One Saturday in February 2017, with a heart-rate monitor and characteristic resolve, Jorge decided that he would make a last serious attempt on Rist Canyon. For all of his stubborn effort, he failed to make the ascent. Later that week he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.

His approach to his illness mirrored his approach to cycling, and indeed to everything else in life. Jorge gave his best effort in every fight, no matter the likelihood of success. In his final years, this meant enduring medical treatment while continuing to strive for a fulfilling life. At home, he continued the daily work of a homeowner. As a family man, he continued to visit his children and dote on his grandchildren, whom he adored. At the university, he continued to do research and teach classes up until months before his death, when it was no longer physically possible. He even continued cycling, though these excursions were now less frequent and more modest. By all accounts, Jorge’s last years were joyful. In his final days, he beamed to those around him, “it has just been such an amazing, incredible ride.”

Jorge was a passionate man who was easily moved to tears by the things that made him happy: the memory of his father and mother; the love and admiration he had for his siblings; scientific discovery and even its mere pursuit; the achievements of great thinkers, artists, and athletes; and, in general, “the human spirit!”, as he would often exclaim. But those who knew Jorge would say that what made him happiest were his sons – Felipe A. Ramírez, a mathematician; Alejandro Ramírez, a neuroscientist; Sebastian Ramírez, a data scientist – who survive him. Jorge is also survived by their mother, Gloria Vallejo; his siblings Luis Alfredo, Guillermo, Isabel, Rafael, and Fernando; and his three beloved grandchildren, Luna Lucía, Joaquín Alberto, and Valeria.

A memorial scholarship for Dr. Ramirez is being created for Civil and Environmental Engineering students at Colorado State University.

For more details, please contact Colleen Reese at colleen.reese@colostate.edu or (814) 360-3488.

Obituaries compiled by CSU Public Relations Staff