After heartbreaking news earlier today, the Pomona College community began to mourn the passing of Physics Professor Alfred Kwok, who died while on a trip over the last few days in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Students, faculty and staff crowded into the Physics Commons, mixing tears and laughter as they shared memories of the vibrant professor who was passionate about physics, the outdoors and life.

“He was a source of energy and excitement,” said Physics Professor Tom Moore. “He genuinely loved being a teacher. He was always thinking about how to get something across better.”

After the gathering, students came forward one after another to write memories on whiteboards:

“Kwok always stayed in Millikan until 2-3 a.m. and would always help with whatever class you were working on – even philosophy.”

“Professor Kwok single-handedly bridged the gap between profs and students.”

“He always knew what each person was interested in, and always had advice and experience to share.”

“He invited me on a ‘moderate’ hike of 22 miles.”

“He’s the reason I’m a physics major.”

Professor Kwok, 50, was an associate professor of physics and astronomy, and a member of Pomona’s faculty since 2000. Professor Kwok grew up in Hong Kong and came to the U.S. for college. He earned his Ph.D. from Yale University and his B.A. from UC Santa Cruz. He came to Pomona from Franklin and Marshall College, and previously served as a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University Free Electron Laser Center.

Kwok was the recipient of the Becton Prize for Excellence in Engineering and Applied Science and the Optical Society of America, Newport Research Award, Finalist. Some of his research interests included microresonators/whispering gallery modes, laser spectroscopy and nonlinear optics.

Kwok was active in outdoor education trips and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  An avid climber, he loved being in the mountains and sharing his love of the outdoors. His death occurred in the rugged backcountry of Kings Canyon National Park, on the southwest face of 13,270-foot Deerhorn Mountain.

“Anything he loved in life, he always wanted to share, whether it was physics or food or hiking,” read one message on the whiteboard. “His joy in life always bubbled over.”

The Kwok family will hold a public memorial service at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8 at Bridges Hall of Music. A reception will follow the service for guests to share memories and experiences of Professor Kwok. 

In honor of Professor Kwok, guests are welcome to dress casually in their favorite outdoor or hiking clothes. Please RSVP here.

In lieu of flowers or wreaths, the Kwok family requests a small donation to the Alfred Kwok memorial fund to benefit future physics students at the College. More information to come.