Spring 2009

Phil Keillor served as Wisconsin Sea Grant’s coastal engineering specialist for nearly 30 years. Photo: Bob Rashid
Remembering Phil Keillor

By John Karl

With deepest sorrow we note the passing of Phil Keillor, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s coastal engineering specialist for nearly 30 years. Keillor died Feb. 27 of injuries sustained while ice skating with his daughter and granddaughter. He was 71.

During his three decades with Wisconsin Sea Grant, Keillor earned a national reputation for the technical assistance, guidance, and educational services he provided to coastal communities along Wisconsin’s shores, throughout the Great Lakes, and beyond. Along the way, he deeply impressed colleagues and co-workers with his competence, his integrity, and his respect for everyone he encountered, on the job and off.

Keillor was the only coastal engineer in the Great Lakes states during his career, and one of very few such specialists in the country. If you struggled with any of the challenges that arise from living or working along the coast, Phil was ready to help. Over the years, his work protected coastal infrastructure from the onslaughts of howling winds, pounding waves, eroding sand and soil, and collapsing bluffs. Yet he also helped protect many miles of natural Great Lakes shoreline from the relentless pressures of development. Phil warned swimmers about rip currents when few people realized they exist in the Great Lakes. He helped communities and government agencies wrestle with the technical and economic challenges of dredging harbors and cleaning up contaminated sediments.

But Phil brought far more than wide-ranging knowledge and competence to his work. As many city and county planners, other government officials, and home and business owners have attested, he approached every problem, every project, every phone call with remarkable thoughtfulness and care. His research was always thorough, his advice was always well-reasoned, his commitment unfailingly complete. To those who knew Phil professionally, it came as no surprise that he remained very active after his retirement in 2003, informing the Great Lakes community about climate change and serving on the board of the Great Lakes Observing System.

The reflections and reminiscences offered here are a modest tribute to an inspiring friend and colleague who left us too soon.

The Aquatic Sciences Center is the administrative home of the
University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute & University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute.

©2011 University of Wisconsin Board of Regents