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February 25, 2014

Memorial Resolution for Winfield Keck

At its Dec. 3, 2013, meeting, the faculty adopted the following memorial resolution for Winfield Keck, Marshall R. Metzgar Professor Emeritus of Physics, who died July 20, 2013.

Winfield Keck, courtesy of Lafayette Special Collections

Winfield Keck, courtesy of Lafayette Special Collections

Winfield Keck joined the Lafayette College faculty as an assistant professor in 1949 with a Ph.D. in physics that he received earlier that year from Brown University. It was the beginning of a long and distinguished career of teaching and service to the College that was marked by 22 years as head of the physics department, 10 years as clerk of the faculty, and many years as a member or elected chair or president of several important campus and community boards and groups including the faculty committee on Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure. The latter, which Win called the committee on appointments and disappointments, was responsible for making tenure and promotion recommendations to the president.

Win’s area of research before coming to Lafayette and during a sabbatical spent at Brown in 1958-59 concerned the theoretical study of the propagation of acoustic waves of finite amplitude in fluids. At Lafayette he taught a wide range of physics courses and laboratories from basic to advanced, as was typical for all members of the department, but advanced courses on electric fields and electromagnetic waves became his specialty.

Students in the larger basic physics courses commented on his complete command of the material and the confidence and ease with which he fielded questions. In a written evaluation one of his students recalled a day when Win substituted for the regular professor who was ill. “Dr. Keck strolled into the classroom without any preparation, asked the class what the last topic covered was, and then proceeded to deliver a coherent, relevant lecture.” In his advanced courses, he followed a practice used by a favorite professor at Brown, assigning students to give most of the lectures. He provided assistance as needed as well as questions that were, in the words of one student, “designed to clarify our understanding where it was lacking and illuminate points which we had missed.” Win always addressed students as Mister or Miss but, despite this formality, students found him friendly and approachable outside of class and expressed appreciation for his interest in their lives and careers.

The years from approximately the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies were a period of rapid and profound change at Lafayette College, and Win Keck was one of a group of senior faculty members who were influential, along with President K. Roald Bergethon, in bringing about these changes. An increase in size of the student body, the introduction of coeducation, and important revisions to the curriculum were accompanied by changes in the organization of the faculty and in tenure policy. As a member or chair of the faculty’s committees on Curriculum, Organization, and the aforementioned Appointments, Promotions, and Dismissals, Win was a major player in all of these. At one time or another he was also elected president of the Lafayette Chapter of the American Association of University Professors; was the first elected President of Sigma Xi, the science honorary society; was appointed to the Trustee Committee on Athletics and Student Affairs; and was appointed as acting dean of the faculty.

Win began his academic career as an undergraduate at Amherst and, following his graduation, earned an M.A. in mathematics from Penn. His rather rapid rise through the ranks at Lafayette, including promotion to associate professor with tenure after three years and to full professor in 1961 was aided by the fact that before earning his doctorate at Brown he had taught for several years at Franklin and Marshall College and at Muhlenberg College. In 1971 he was awarded the Lindback Award for distinguished teaching and service to the campus community. In 1975 he was named the Marshall Metzgar Professor of Physics. At the time, Provost George Sause wrote to the Board of Trustees that Win was “An elder statesman among the faculty. Very cooperative, his judgment is respected by faculty and administrative officers of all ranks. Well known as a man with the courage of his convictions.”

Despite all the demands on his time due to his positions at the College, Win also was a leader in the community of Martins Creek, where he lived for many years with his wife Peggy and their four sons, Peter, Lindsey, Jonathan, and Timothy. He chaired the Lower Mount Bethel Township Planning Commission for a year and later was elected chair of the LMB Zoning Hearing Board. He also held positions of responsibility in the Quaker Meeting to which he belonged, formally, the Lehigh Valley Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, where he served as clerk and was on the Board of Overseers. And he took particular pride in being appointed to the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The board investigates cases of alleged professional misconduct by attorneys practicing law in Pennsylvania and recommends action to the Supreme Court. For many years the board had consisted of 11 attorneys but it was expanded to 13 in 1980 to include Win and another non-lawyer.

Win retired in June, 1983. He was a man of many interests besides the academic. In 1969 he and the family moved into a large stone building beside Little Martins Creek that had been a grist mill until 1951. The second and third floors were transformed into a 13 room home heated with a large wood burning stove and filled with antique furniture and tools that the Kecks had collected over the years.

After retirement Win and Peggy moved to a farm near Boyertown, Pa., and shared the large farm house with Lindsey and his family. Win and Peggy became key members of the Exeter Friends Meeting and Win again served as Clerk. His later years were spent in the town of Boyertown where he died at the age of 95.

Madame President, on behalf of the committee, I move that this memorial be led with the minutes of this meeting and that copies be sent to Peggy Keck and their three surviving sons, Lindsey, Jonathan, and Timothy.

Respectfully submitted,

Andrew Dougherty, associate professor of physics
David Hogenboom, Marshall R. Metzger Professor Emeritus of Physics
Anthony Novaco, Marshall R. Metzger Professor Emeritus of Physics

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