In remembrance of Roger and Val Morash

Roger Hanna Morash and Valerie Morash. Photo: Courtesy of family

Note: Friends and family shared this statement with Berkeleyside about the recent deaths of Roger and Val Morash. A private memorial service for those who knew the couple has been planned for Friday. Community members are encouraged to donate to a charity of their choice in Val and Roger’s name, or otherwise hold their donation until the announcement of a scholarship that will be endowed in their honor.

The families and friends of Roger and Val Morash are devastated about their sudden and tragic deaths at their apartment in Berkeley, California, on Jan. 22, 2017.

Val and Roger were true Renaissance people, successfully tackling projects from many disciplines and creating wondrous collaborations with dozens of people. Married for over 8 years, Roger and Val met as undergraduates at MIT, where Roger majored in Computer Science and Mathematics, and Val majored in Electrical Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences. In addition to obtaining multiple advanced degrees at MIT, Val and Roger participated in the MIT Mystery Hunt, a multi-day puzzle competition; lived in a wonderful and quirky dorm named Random Hall, where they made many loving friends; and ran an autonomous robotics competition known as MASLAB, which continues to this day due to Val’s incredible organizational and fundraising skills. While at Random Hall, Roger also served as the chair of the Social Committee, which brought the dorm’s residents together through many memorable and unique social events.

Val and Roger moved to Berkeley in 2006, where Val acquired her Ph.D. in Psychology at UC Berkeley, supplementing it with a Masters degree in Statistics. During her tenure as a Ph.D student, Val won multiple awards and fellowships. After graduation, she continued her research career at the highly selective Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, where her research was split between haptic perception and issues related to visual impairment.

Roger has long been interested in video game development; he began his career at Demiurge Studios, where he worked on games like Titan Quest and Mass Effect. He continued on to Harmonix, where he took part in the development of the Rock Band and Dance Central game series and acted as the Code Lead on the game Amplitude. Six years ago, Roger created his own indie game company named Glug Glug; since that time, he has been working on a video game called Shard with a unique game mechanic.

Both Val and Roger surrounded themselves with a multitude of projects outside of work. Val was a talented hardware engineer, using a laser cutter and a 3D-printer to build complex rigs for her research, but also constructing devices like book scanners and custom computers for her own projects. She was also a talented violinist, practicing and performing at recitals. Roger actively participated in the internationally renowned MIT Mystery Hunt, both solving and writing whimsical and challenging puzzles. Val and Roger also enjoyed complex board games, priding themselves on developing unique winning strategies. Both were avid travelers, visiting many local destinations with their friends, as well as remote destinations like Tanzania, Vietnam, and various European countries with their families. Val and Roger also dedicated time to being loyal humans to their two clever Singapura cats, Minsky and Malloc (named after a famed AI researcher and a C programming language function). Unfortunately, Minsky and Malloc passed away along with Val and Roger.

Val and Roger were deeply devoted to their families. Roger was a loyal and loving son to his mom, Susan Hanna, and his now-deceased father Edward Hanna, and a proud brother of Mark and David. Roger was also like a sibling to Val’s brother, Soojin Morash. Val deeply loved her brother, along with her mom, Professor Merry Morash, and her dad, Professor Emeritus Edward Morash.

Finally, Val and Roger created and cultivated incredible friendships. Their hundreds of friends came from every circle they took part in: high school, MIT, UC Berkeley, video game development, and vision science research. At every point, Roger and Val made friends easily and freely, generously extending their hands and minds. Whether for their classmates at Random Hall, for teammates at MIT Mystery Hunt, for many graduate students and new researchers that Val mentored, for Roger’s video game development colleagues, and for countless others, Val and Roger were two bright suns, pulling friends into their orbit and showering them with love and support. In their short lives, Val and Roger accomplished much more and touched many more people than others do in much longer lifetimes. Their light will not go out: plans are already in the works to continue and finish Roger’s amazing video game, to carry on Val’s brilliant research work, and to dedicate scholarships and symposia in their names. Please look out for future announcements on the memorial page.

Val and Roger have produced so much knowledge and have given so much love, yet they had so much more knowledge and love left to give, and their legacy must live on. We, their family and friends, will ensure that it does.