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Passing of Long-time Arts & Sciences Adjunct Professor Joe Policelli

DEPARTMENT(S): 
April 28, 2020

To the WPI Community:

It is with great sadness that I inform you of the death of long-time Arts & Sciences adjunct professor Joe Policelli, who passed away yesterday from complications of COVID-19. Joe was 71 years old and had been a part of our music division since 1995. He was greatly respected by his fellow faculty and students, to whom he gave selflessly of his time and expertise.

This is truly a great loss for the WPI community and beyond.

Joe came to WPI at a time when the university’s music program was growing, and he was one of the first adjunct faculty to teach fundamental music courses. While Joe had not taught classes since A-Term, he was scheduled to teach in E-Term over the summer.

He was highly regarded as a dedicated colleague on the WPI music faculty, a devoted teacher who was without pretense; he was eager to share his knowledge, taking new faculty under his wing when they were learning to teach music fundamentals.  Students loved him and recognized that he would take whatever time was needed to ensure that each could succeed in his classes. Often teaching 80-90 students per term, Joe could spend hours toward the end of term in extra sessions with his students, often working individually with those who had fallen behind or taken incompletes. He would push his students hard, but was always available to discuss homework and exams. Students would sometimes stand in line waiting for him to go over their papers, and they didn’t mind doing so.

He was as meticulous in his teaching as he was in his music performance.

In addition to being a brilliant organist, Joe was director of music at Saint Paul's Cathedral in Worcester through the 1980s and served there for almost 17 years. His programs at Saint Paul included hundreds of masses and services with a renowned choir and with organ music of the highest standard. He appreciated the musicians who worked with him.

Audiences would travel great distances to attend these beautiful liturgies for the quality of the outstanding music. In addition to liturgies, he presented formal concerts of choral masterworks with orchestra as part of the Cathedral’s amazing music series. He invited the WPI brass ensemble to play at Saint Paul’s every year.

Joe also played organ at the Mass Academy of Math and Science commencement every year.

Joe was most recently music director at St. Columbkille Church in Brighton, and had been an accompanist at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham for several years. He was also an active and prominent figure in the Worcester music community, well-known for his work as Dean of the Worcester Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. 

He graduated with a degree in sacred music from Boston University and served on the Music Commission for the diocese of Worcester.

His loss may be particularly difficult for us when we cannot come together in person. With so much concern about isolation and social distancing, the death of a colleague can hit harder as the usual rituals of remembrance are largely absent. Please keep in mind the Counseling Center remains available to students, and employees have access to counseling through the EAP.

Thank you,

Wole Soboyejo, Provost