Concert for Tom Keil

Physics professor and cellist Tom Keil to be honored

September 17, 2014
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Professor Thomas Keil was a cellist
and a longtime participant in the
Worcester Music Chamber Society’s
summer chamber music camp.

Thomas H. Keil, longtime professor of physics at WPI, died on Feb. 28, 2013. He was 73. In his lifetime his exuberance and passion for teaching made Keil a kind of boy wonder. So it’s only fitting to name the upcoming memorial concerts in his honor: Wunderkind!

The concerts are sponsored by Tom’s widow, Nora Keil, and will be presented annually. The Keils were avid fans of the Worcester Chamber Music Society (WCMS), which will present a program of wunderkind composers including Mozart (Flute Quartet in A Major), Mendelssohn (String Quintet No. 1), and Glazunov (String Quintet in A Major).

WCMS musicians performing in the concerts are flutist Tracy Kraus, violinists Krista Buckland Reisner and Rohan Gregory, violist Peter Sulski, and cellist Ariana Falk. For these particular occasions, the WCMS has enlisted the talents of guest viola soloist Marcus Thompson, a distinguished performer equally recognized as a soloist, recording artist, and educator.

The Keils’ relationship with WCMS reaches way back. Tom was a cellist and a longtime participant in the group’s summer chamber music camp. He started playing the cello in 1975 and attended his first music camp in 1980.

What: Memorial concerts for Tom Keil

Where and when: Thursday, Sept. 18, at 7:30 pm at the Grafton Congregational Church on the Grafton Common, and Saturday, Sept. 20, at 7:30 pm at First Baptist Church, 111 Park Ave, Worcester.

Tickets $32 Adults, $27 Seniors, $10 Students ($8 with WOO card)

Children under 17, free admission. Limited free Library Passes available at Worcester Public Library

Tickets: worcesterchambermusic.org or 508-217-4450 ext. 1.

There will be a pre-concert talk at both performances at 7 pm and a “meet and greet” reception to follow. Open to all.

“As camp director, I fondly recall the early mornings when it would be just Tom and I in the building,” says violinist Krista Buckland Reisner. “He would be up and ready to practice by 6 am. I would be there to open the building to begin my work on camp activities. He would often sit with me in my office for a few moments, just chit-chatting, while I drank my morning coffee—a lovely moment of reflection and respite in an otherwise very busy day for both of us.”

In reading Tom’s obituary, one marvels at his many accomplishments, a life well spent. At the center of his professional life was his devotion to teaching. He chaired the WPI Physics Department from 1973 to 1977 and again from 1994 to 2004. In 1978 he won the WPI Board of Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Teaching.

PK Aravind recalled
his colleague as a
gentle and caring
individual.

​Professsor PK Aravind was a colleague. “Tom was a gentle and caring individual, who cared deeply about his students and helped many of his colleagues in numerous ways over the years. In the early ’90s, Tom and I were team teaching a course, with me as the principal lecturer and him as my conference instructor. I got chicken pox from my son and had to be in quarantine for two weeks. Tom graciously did all my lectures for me, in addition to his own conferences, and didn’t want me to take on any of his work as compensation when I got back. This was typical of him.”

A partial list of academic teaching achievements include being an offsite faculty advisor for WPI’s IQPs in Costa Rica and Washington, D.C. He was part of the team of WPI Insight advisors, helping first year students in transition. He was the first director of the Frontiers Program and worked with former state senator Arthur Chase to found the Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science at WPI, and was an active participant in the Excellence in Math Science Engineering Program here at the school.

On the WPI campus, Tom Keil is remembered as a dedicated teacher, private and unassuming. “Our most memorable partnership was probably our team teaching of PH1120,” Aravind says, “with me as the lead lecturer and Tom as my backup and logistics person. Tom not only took care of the logistics marvelously, but also helped me in his quiet and unobtrusive way to become a better teacher. He was also modest and self-effacing, and not one to draw attention to his accomplishments. I am grateful to have known him.”

-BY DAVID SNEADE

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