Pomona College mourns loss of professor after climbing death

The body of Alfred Kwok, a physics and astronomy professor at Pomona College, was found Tuesday afternoon after he disappeared over the weekend on a hiking trip in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Mr. Kwok, 50, was on a solo rock-climbing trip near King’s Canyon National Park that was supposed to end on Sunday evening. His body was found on Tuesday afternoon on the upper southwest face of Deerhorn Mountain, Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park, spokesperson Zach Behrens said in a release.

His body could not be recovered until Wednesday morning, Mr. Behrens said.

Mr. Kwok was an experienced climber, according to a press release from Pomona College.

“He was active in outdoor education trips and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship,” the college shared. “As many know, he was an avid climber. He loved being in the mountains and sharing his love of the outdoors.”

According to posts by fellow climbers on the website MountainProject.com, Mr. Kwok checked in at the ranger station on Friday and was expected to return Sunday night. His scheduled hike was up the northeast ridge of Deerhorn Mountain, off the John Muir Trail near the Kearsarge Pass in the Sierra Nevadas.

Mr. Kwok has been with Pomona since 2000. He received his PhD from Yale University and his bachelor’s from UC Santa Cruz. His areas of expertise included microresonators/whispering gallery modes, laser spectroscopy and nonlinear optics.

He was the recipient of the Becton Prize for Excellence in Engineering and Applied Science, and was a finalist for the Optical Society of America, Newport Research Award.

“He was 50 years old, and his untimely death brings a depth of grief to our community that has only begun to be felt,” Pomona College News Director Mark Kendall said in the release.

Students gathered at the Physics Commons Wednesday evening to pay tribute to Mr. Kwok, with some students writing tributes on the white board, Pomona College said. Many notes talked about his willingness to help students, and one person said Mr. Kwok was the reason they majored in physics.

The cause and circumstances of his death are under investigation, Mr. Behrens said.

Information regarding memorial services will be provided as it becomes available. The COURIER will feature a full account of Mr. Kwok’s life in an upcoming edition.

—Matthew Bramlett



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