When a student killed a UCLA professor on June 2 and then turned the gun on himself, he murdered a professing Christian beloved by students, Little League players, colleagues, and his wife and two young children.
William (Bill) Klug, 39, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, died inside an engineering building near the campus’ south side. Officials said Mainak Sarkar, 38, drove all the way from Minnesota to Los Angeles to shoot Klug. At the former student’s home, police found a “kill list,” which included Klug, another UCLA professor, and a woman in Minnesota investigators later found dead. Police believe Sarkar had mental health issues and thought Klug had released intellectual property that harmed him.
Colleagues described Klug as not only brilliant but also kind and gentle.
“I am absolutely devastated,” Alan Garfinkel, a professor of integrative biology and physiology who worked with Klug to develop a computer-generated virtual heart, told the Los Angeles Times. “You cannot ask for a nicer, gentler, sweeter, and more supportive guy than William Klug.”
William (Bill) Klug
Immediately following the shooting, panic ensued on campus as social media postings suggested as many as four active shooters were on campus. The Times reported students hiding in buildings across campus, locking themselves in classrooms, and using furniture and other objects as barricades.
Melissa Gibbons, Klug’s former doctoral student, described him to the Times as an exceptional mentor. She recalled a time when Klug noticed another student struggling in his finite element modeling class and asked Gibbons to tutor the student: “He didn’t want to see her fail. To care that much in an undergraduate class says a lot about his character.”
Klug in 2004 told the Westmont College alumni magazine, “Knowing there is a God responsible for the world makes a big difference in my motivation to understand it better. … I developed a habit of relying on God for what I felt was beyond my ability to control or what I couldn’t do for myself.”
The professor loved surfing and frequently took his family to Los Angeles Dodgers games. He also enjoyed coaching his son’s Little League team in his El Segundo community.
“He’s a great guy, great father, great husband,” said Peter Gianusso, president of the El Segundo Little League. “Bill was one of the kindest, most light-hearted, quiet person that you’ve ever meet.”
Klug earned his undergraduate degree in engineering physics from Westmont College in 1997, his master’s degree in civil engineering from UCLA in 1999, and his PhD in mechanical engineering from Caltech in 2003.