Professor Josef Ashkenazi, known to some as “Yossi,” passed away last Wednesday. Ashkenazi, who was born in Beit Hanan, Israel, in 1944, had been teaching at the University of Miami for the past 24 years.
Ashkenazi attended Hebrew University in Jerusalem, graduating with a Ph.D. in physics. In 1988, he came to teach at the University of Miami, where he became a tenured professor.
According to an obituary published in The Miami Herald, Ashkenazi had been publishing work in the field of superconductivity until recently.
Kenneth Voss, physics professor and chairman for UM’s Department of Physics, began teaching at the university around the same time as Ashkenazi. The two professors worked together, at one point co-teaching an introductory physics course.
“It was fun to teach with him because Yossi always took care of the details,” Voss said.
With his help, James Nearing, a UM professor who retired last May, will take over the class, according to Voss.
“Yossi was extremely organized and had lots of energy,” Voss said. “He was always done ahead of time. His energy in the department will be missed. It’s going to be hard. He was a positive and optimistic person.”
Voss said that it was quiet in the physics department the Thursday and Friday after he died.
Senior Liliana Paan was in Ashkenazi’s introductory physics course this semester. She remembers Ashkenazi’s cheerful demeanor.
“Even though I had professor Ashkenazi for only two months, you felt how caring he was for his students and the love he had for physics,” said Paan, a psychology major. “He made going to class enjoyable by incorporating jokes and demonstrations into his lectures. There wasn’t one class he did not smile and crack a joke.”
Senior Sara Gutekunst also took Ashkenazi’s introductory physics course this semester. She was hesitant about taking physics, but was surprised to see how Ashkenazi conducted his class.
“He made it fun. It wasn’t too difficult,” she said. “It was a great surprise. I really liked him as a teacher. He was pretty humorous and I enjoyed the class.”
Though Gutekunst believes she is sure they will replace him with a good teacher, she will miss his energy and the way he taught.
“I’m going to miss him,” Gutekunst said. “I was really stunned when they told us he had passed away.”