Bob O’Rourke dies at 72; developed pubcasting science shows

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Bob O’Rourke, a former vice president for public relations at the California Institute of Technology who helped develop several pubcasting science features, died Tuesday (Dec. 27) of complications following a lung transplant. He was 72.

O’Rourke conceived the idea for AirTalk: The CalTech Edition, a collaboration with local NPR member station KPCC in Pasadena, Calif., as well as The Loh Down on Science, “the fun way to get your daily dose of science in less than two minutes,” hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh. He also was a driving force behind Curious, a four-part pubTV series from WNET that focused on the work of scientists at CalTech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“Bob O’Rourke’s passing is a loss to Caltech that is incalculable,” said Loh, a Caltech alumnus, in a statement from the university. “I feel his loss as deeply as I would the loss of a member of my own family. One of the wonderful things about Caltech is that it has always had a maverick, irreverent, and out-of-the-box spirit, and I think many of Bob O’Rourke’s projects reflected this.”

He had been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in 2006. During the last two years O’Rourke gave several media interviews about the disease, including on NPR, in the Los Angeles Times and on NBC’s Today show.

O’Rourke, a native of Beverly, Mass., is survived by his wife, Sandy; four children, two stepchildren and eight grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a sister and two brothers.

A funeral Mass will be 2 p.m. Jan. 4 at Holy Family Church in South Pasadena. The family requests memorial donations to UCLA Medical Science Development (Attention: Nushie Gaharib; 10945 Le Conte Ave., Suite 3132, Los Angeles, Calif., 90095).