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Jan. 13 2010 - 11:43 am | 1,752 views | 2 recommendations | 4 comments

NYU professor commits suicide after childcare argument

View of the Warren Weaver Hall, Courant Instit...

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This story is as baffling as it is upsetting.

A brilliant NYU computer-science prof who had just become the father of twins jumped to his death last night from a 16th-floor balcony at his university-owned apartment, sources said.

Sam Roweis, 37, an associate professor in the school’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, died at 10:22 p.m.

His wife had recently given birth to preemie twins, the sources said.

“They were in some kind of argument over caring for them and all of a sudden, in the middle of the argument, he jumped over the 16th-floor balcony,” a source said.

via NYU prof suicide – NYPOST.com.

Having witnessed too many divorces of parents of the under-two set, it’s not unusual for the stress of having young children to cause irreparable damage. But clearly there was something else going on with the professor.

Roweis was described as a “very happy, happy guy.” Even the happiest guy can become overwhelmed by children, not to mention twins. And preemies require an extra level of intensity (Google preemies and postpartum depression and you’ll find too many links to scroll through in a day). Extreme lack of sleep – common in the early days of bringing home the babies – can also drive people to do crazy things. For the sake of the children and his wife, I do hope another explanation is revealed for Roweis’ suicide. I also hope his wife gets the support she needs during this horrific time.


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  1. collapse expand

    Its a wonder it doesn’t happen more often…

  2. collapse expand

    April,

    Not quite sure what you were suggesting when you mentioned post-partum depression, but recent studies have suggested that this condition, once thought to be primarily a concern of mothers, can occur in fathers, too. Most authorities on suicide believe that it reflects underlying depression, in addition to whatever seems to have prompted it (arguments over the care of premature twins).

    We will likely never know much about why Roweis made that leap, but it’s reasonable to assume that there was more to it than the birth of the twins.

    Also, oddly, NYU has had more than its share of suicides in recent years, as Caitlin Kelly has pointed out here recently. It’s hard to know what to conclude about any of this.

    • collapse expand

      Thanks Paul. Yes, it’s a new line of thought (new research? new interest?) that fathers are actually affected by parenthood as much as mothers. It seems like a no-brainer as this is a dramatic change in anyone’s life regardless of sex. But like diapers and school lunches, the discussions surrounding the emotional adjustment of parenthood has traditionally fallen exclusively within the realm of mom.

      Let’s hope more discussion follows so men (as well as women) can get help before winding up dead, divorced and/or miserable.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  3. collapse expand

    The first baby can strain a marriage when things don’t go well. I remember extreme sleep deprivation- that’s when I learned how to sleep standing up on the subway- to the point where my marriage and job were both in jeopardy.

    Such a seemingly ordinary thing as a new baby can turn out to test you in ways you never imagined. The childless need to be a little more understanding here for the first few months of a new baby.

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    I fled the tranquil countryside of Oklahoma to become an urban upstart in Manhattan with a stopover in Austin, Texas. After adventures in the music business and the theater, I got hitched, became a mom (to a pre-school lass and a baby boy) and moved to Brooklyn with the rest of ‘em. We all make our choices.

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