Science always came naturally to William A. Robba. Before he could drive, he built a high-frequency Tesla coil at his home in Queens. But it wasn't until he arrived at Fordham that he realized he wanted to pursue a career in physics.
"My father always credited Fordham for putting him on the right path," said Harte Robba, William's oldest son and the executor of his estate. "He used to tell us about Father Joseph Lynch bringing my father's class into the Fordham Seismic Station, where they could use the equipment. It had a great effect on my father and helped push him more to the sciences.”
Robba attended Fordham on the G.I. Bill after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. He graduated summa cum laude in 1950, earned a master's degree in physics at Texas A&M in 1951, and went on to work at the forefront of nuclear physics for decades—at various labs, as a consultant and as vice president of research in Pfizer's Space Age Division.
Robba included Fordham in his estate plans, donating money to the physics department, which used his generosity to build an alternative energy lab in Freeman Hall, where students perform experiments in energy conversion and storage.
"His gift helps us keep stride with the growth of the program," said Martin Sanzari, Ph.D., director of Fordham’s engineering physics program. "One of the most important components to an engineering education is hands-on laboratory experience."