Wil Zeilinger emigrated from his native war-ravaged Europe to the United States in the mid 1950's. He never forgot his Austrian roots, but his heart and soul were filled with pride for his adopted homeland, which sent him back across the Atlantic (in the U. S. Army) shortly after his arrival in the Bay Area. While on service duty, Wil met and courted his lifelong love, Christel, bringing her from her native Germany to set up their home and ultimately, to rise their two sons, Mark and Scott, in California.
Wil had been educated in mechanical engineering, machinery design and fabrication at the technical school in Graz, Austria. In 1958, after using this training for a short time at a private firm in Berkeley, he joined the staff of the EECS Department at the University of California. Wil advanced steadily through the job rankings from his initial position as a Senior Lab Mechanician until, 16 years later, he had become the Senior Superintendent of the EECS Mechanical Shop.
In the 1960s and 70s, EECS at Berkeley was growing rapidly in personnel, facilities, and complexity. To manage this growth effectively, it became apparent that new procedures were necessary. Specifically, there needed to be an engineer in charge of the technical facilities and operations in the department. Those working with him knew that Wil was the person who could most effectively handle that job, and in 1974 he was appointed Cory Hall's first Department Engineer just in time to confront two important construction projects: building the architecturally unique student meeting room that was made possible by a gift from the Joseph Moore family, and extending the first-floor mezzanine over a complex research laboratory. Wil carried these projects out with the "can-do" spirit that soon became his trademark. Responsible for the physical operation of Cory Hall from the mid 1970s, Wil helped to transform the building to keep ahead of the complex needs imposed by the fast-changing technology of EECS. He was guided always by a desire to achieve the best possible outcome and gave of his time and energies whatever was needed to further the general good. Two major challenges met by Wil were the complete reconstruction of the 4th-floor Microlab in the early 1980s and the addition of the 5th floor shortly thereafter. Wil thrived on complicated and challenging projects and was known for his knack in cutting through red tape, finding funding, and getting past myriads of detail in order to accomplish his well-considered goals.
Wil instituted a model safety program in Cory Hall, and set up disaster procedures. He implemented an energy-saving program that has resulted in campus savings of over $100,000 annually. As Department Engineer, Wil handled administration matters for the entire Cory Hall technical staff. His fairness and even-handed judgment in these matters has been praised by many who worked with him. In 1991, shortly after his health had begun to decline as a result of a tragic brain infection that followed an injury on the job, Wil was awarded the Berkeley Citation for his outstanding service and loyalty to the campus. He was justly proud of receiving this highest honor bestowed by the Berkeley campus.
Away from his work, Wil had a deep love for nature and spent many happy hours in the high Sierra. From his youthful days as a racer and instructor in the Alps, Wil carried great skill and enthusiasm for skiing to the mountains of California. He gave freely of his time and talent to further the aims of goodly fellowship with nature through his organization, The Nature Friends of California. He served in several high offices in this organization as did his wife Christel. He loved river rafting and the thrill of daring nature in fun-filled competition. He smiled easily and was always ready to share a funny story. He lives on in the hearts of many who knew him-- his work and his love for his fellow man are his most fitting monuments.
|Wil Zeilinger Staff Excellence Award|