Paul Frederick Zweifel, 87, of Blacksburg, passed away Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. Paul was born in New York, New York on June 21, 1929 to Dorothy and Frederick Zweifel.
His family later moved to Spartanburg, South Carolina where he attended Spartanburg High School. At the age of fifteen, he was awarded the Pepsi-Cola Scholarship to attend the college of his choice, Carnegie-Melon University. There, he was suite mates with John Nash, whose life story was the basis for the biography and film “A Beautiful Mind”.
Following his undergraduate studies, he received his PhD. in Physics from Duke University. His passion for sports led him to be a sports journalist at the Durham Sun Newspaper, where he interviewed athletes such as Willie Mays. In the next chapter of his life, he began his ten-year professorship at the University of Michigan in Nuclear Engineering. There, he met his wife of fifty years, Kathleen Zweifel.
In 1968, they moved to Blacksburg where he became a Professor of Physics at Virginia Tech and was soon appointed University Distinguished Professor. While at Virginia Tech, he was awarded the E. O. Lawrence Medal by the United States government in 1972 and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1975. In 1963 he founded the “Blacksburg Meeting” which brings together experts in his field from all over the world. This meeting continues to meet every two years in varied locations as Blacksburg, Arizona, China, Brazil and Sweden.
One of the highlights of his life was his sabbatical in Florence, Italy with his family, where he became the Choir Director of the American Church in Florence and built lifelong friendships. He retired from Virginia Tech in 1996 and, in collaboration with his wife Kathy, took advantage of his musical and linguistic attributes to set up a business providing subtitles for opera companies across the United States.
Throughout his life, Paul continued his passions for opera, sports, bridge, travel and, most importantly, his beloved family. He loved to watch his grandchildren participate in their varied activities from soccer, musical performances, football, wrestling, lacrosse and tennis. He passed his love for all Virginia Tech sports onto his family members. As we watched the Hokies beat UVA in double overtime on Sunday, we knew he would have been proud of his Hokies.
He is survived by his wife, Kathleen McKay Zweifel; sister, Sylvia Rodgers; daughter Christen (Miles) Whitten; sons, Feza (Heather) Zweifel and Evan (Kelly) Zweifel; daughter Katie Clements; grandchildren, Jimmy, Sarah and Mac Whitten, Zachary and Nicholas Clements, Bailey and Spencer Zweifel, and beloved dog, Frodo.
A memorial service will be held at Christ Episcopal Church, where Paul was a long-time member. The service will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18 with Rev. Scott West officiating. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or Doctors Without Borders.