June 28, 2023

Princeton University Graduate Among Those Who Perished on Submersible

By Wendy Greenberg

R. Stockton Rush III

Among the five people who died as a result of a widely-covered deep ocean tragedy last week was a Princeton University alumnus whose family had ties to the University.

R. Stockton Rush III had been missing after his submersible craft, The Titan, did not resurface from a June 18 underwater trip to see the wreckage of the Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. On June 22, the U.S. Coast Guard announced that all five passengers had apparently died after debris found on the ocean floor near the Titanic wreck indicated the craft had suffered a catastrophic implosion. Rush was co-founder and CEO of the company behind the expedition, OceanGate Expeditions, based in Everett, Wash.

Princeton University confirmed Rush’s class year as 1984, and his undergraduate major, mechanical and aerospace engineering.

The Daily Princetonian stated that family alumni include Rush’s father, Richard Stockton Rush Jr. ’53; grandfather, Richard S. Rush ’27; and his wife, Wendy Rush ’84. Rush is also descended from Princeton alumni Richard Stockton, Class of 1748, and Benjamin Rush, Class of 1760 — both of whom signed the Declaration of Independence.

The New York Times noted that Rush’s wife Wendy is descended from Isidor and Ida Strauss, both of whom were passengers on the Titanic and died when the ship sank on April 15, 1912. They were among 1,500 who died on the ship. It is said 700 survived.

In its coverage of the missing submersible, and subsequent obituaries, the New York Times reported that after graduation from Princeton, Rush moved to Seattle as a flight-test engineer at McDonnell Douglas. He earned a degree from University of California at Berkeley Haas School of Business.

The Times stated that Rush, 61 when he died, was believed to be the world’s youngest jet transport-rated pilot at age 19. In 2012, he was a founder of the OceanGate Foundation, a nonprofit organization that encouraged technological development to further marine science, history, and archaeology.

While the international media has questioned the safety of the vessel, Princeton Alumni Weekly (PAW) published a story this week titled “Big Dreams and Daring Marked the Life of Stockton Rush, ’84.”

In the article, which is online, classmates, including his freshman roommate, fondly remember the classmate they called “Tock,” and expressed admiration for his pursuing his dreams, his love of adventure, and his caring for others.

“History shows us that exploration and innovation are inherently risky and dangerous,” a group of alumni wrote in a statement to PAW. They signed it “Proud and Grieving Friends of Tock.”