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Doctoral student arraigned in adviser's death

December 12, 1998

Wlodzimierz Dedecjus, a troubled doctoral student, is scheduled to be arraigned in 36th District Court Sunday morning, Dec. 13, on a two count warrant for first degree murder and felony possession of a firearm. Dedecjus is charged with the murder of his doctoral advisor, Wayne State University Professor Andrzej Olbrot in a shooting Dec. 10 as Professor Olbrot was administering a final exam to students on campus.

Dedecjus turned himself in to Ann Arbor police at about 1 a.m. Friday and said to an officer, "I want to confess to a shooting at Wayne State University tonight."

Wayne State University Public Safety Chief Dallas Schneider said that evidence so far collected and reports of witnesses indicate that Dedecjus was careful to avoid threatening or pointing his weapon at other students in the class at the time. No students were injured in the attack.

WSU Assistant Dean of the Graduate School Matthew Seeger noted that the shooting of Dr. Olbrot reflects an extreme and rare pattern of violence. Similar events have occurred at graduate programs at Stanford University, the University of Iowa, and most recently, a doctoral student at Harvard committed suicide.

This year, the 50th anniversary of Wayne State University awarding its first Ph.D., the Graduate School established in October a Ph.D. Commission to examine its doctoral programs. The Commission, composed of senior faculty from throughout the university, has been examining a range of issues including those associated with doctoral student well being.

"WSU had not experienced such problems in the past, even though it is one of the 10 largest graduate programs in the nation," Seeger said. "Clearly, the Ph.D. Commission will be focusing additional attention on questions of student stress."

"Doctoral education is among the most challenging, demanding and intense areas of academic study," said Seeger. "By definition, you are at the cutting edge of a field seeking to create new knowledge.

"Individuals vary in the ability to manage the stresses in their life, and doctoral study is no different" Seeger said. "In the instance at Wayne, an individual reacted in a way that is thankfully exceedingly rare."

"For those who choose doctoral education, it is also among the most rewarding of activities." Seeger can discuss some of the pressures common to graduate education. He can be reached at (313) 577-5065 or (734) 426-0263.

"Nationally about 40,000 students receive doctorates each year," Seeger said. "We have never had an event even remotely like this at Wayne."

The university has established 24-hour counseling sources for students, faculty, and staff who have been traumatized by this event. These individuals may call the following numbers for assistance: 1-800-852-0357 (available 24 hours);(313) 577-2840; and (313) 577-3398.

Dedecjus, 48, came to the United States from Poland in 1989. After receiving an associate's degree at a community college, he entered Wayne State University, and earned a bachelor's degree. He entered the graduate program in 1995 and earned a master's degree under a different advisor before entering the Ph.D. program in electrical engineering, with Dr. Olbrot as advisor .

Although Dedecjus was taking an independent study with Dr. Olbrot this semester, Dedecjus was not enrolled in the course where the shooting occurred.

Dr. Olbrot, 52, was born in Lisow, Poland. He received his bachelor's (1970), graduate (1973) and postgraduate (1977) degrees from the Technical University of Warsaw. He was also on its faculty in the department of automatic control until 1987. In 1988 he was appointed to the electrical and computer engineering faculty at Wayne State University. He was promoted to a full professorship in 1992.

Professor Olbrot's expertise was in advanced computer control systems, including robust control time-delay systems. Most recently he was involved in a research project supported by the Ford Motor Co. that would apply his research to automotive computer systems.

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