Obituary: Professor Emeritus Kenneth Pahel

Philosophy faculty at Knox, 1967-1999

July 22, 2010

Kenneth PahelKenneth R. Pahel, professor emeritus of philosophy at Knox College, died July 18. He was 75. A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m., Thursday, July 29, in Ferris Lounge, followed by a reception in the Lincoln Room in Carithers Hall in Seymour Union on the Knox campus.

Pahel is survived by his wife, Geraldine, son Timothy Pahel of Galesburg, daughter Melissa Jacks of Austin, Texas, and three grandchildren. An obituary and condolences are online at Hinchliff-Pearson-West.

"Professor Pahel was known as a wonderful teacher who broadened his expertise to include eastern philosophy in response to student interest," said Knox College President Roger Taylor. "He also embraced other disciplines, such as medicine, business and law, and included them in his ethics courses."

A graduate of Rollins College, Pahel earned his master's and doctorates in philosophy at the University of Illinois. Prior to coming to Knox he taught at Rollins and Southern Methodist University.

Pahel taught at Knox from 1967 to 1999, including three terms as chair of the philosophy department. His teaching and research focused on ethics. His publications included the book "Readings in Contemporary Ethical Theory," co-edited with Mark Schiller, and numerous articles in scholarly journals.

In 1975-1976 Pahel was a visiting professor at St. Clare's Hall, an International Baccalaureate school in Oxford, England. In the 1970s he designed and built his own solar water heating system for his home in Knoxville -- the College's news release about the project is excerpted below.

From 1980 to 1985 Pahel held an adjunct appointment to teach medical ethics at Rush University in Chicago, and in the 1990s he team-taught a course in medical ethics at Knox with Dr. James King, a Knox graduate and Galesburg physician. In the spring of 1990, Pahel and King testified before an Illinois legislative committee on the treatment of terminally ill patients. "We believed that potential abuses could be avoided if the legislature passed a set of clear guidelines," they later wrote. "Hospital ethics committees could then verify compliance with the guidelines."

May 21, 1979

After a full summer of work and a fall of applying the finishing touches, Knox College Associate Professor of Philosophy Ken Pahel has built his own solar heating system. The system provides 100 percent of his hot water during six months out of the year and about 10 percent during the coldest months of January and February. Pahel estimates that he is saving about $25 a month when the system is supplying all of his hot water. His conventional water heater supplies the remaining hot water when necessary.

Pahel first thought about building his own system two years ago. He did some preliminary experimentation and then traveled to Argonne National Laboratory last spring to confirm his experimental results. He solicited help from the Knox physics department in interpreting the equations that Argonne came up with. Work on the final system started at the end of the 1977-78 school year.

The system consists primarily of three south-facing, 3-by-5-foot panels designed to concentrate the sun's energy on 1/2-inch copper pipes that contain a fluid called Suntemp... Once the fluid is heated in the collectors, it is pumped into an 30-gallon heat exchanger tank.

The troughs [that focus the solar energy onto the pipes] were made with offset printing plates from Wagoner Printing [in Galesburg], Pahel explained. "An interesting sideline is that some of the plates were used for printing the Knox alumni magazine. So, pictures of President [Inman] Fox, Dean [Mary] Eysenbach and others will be forever on my solar collectors."

"Each of the collectors is covered with glass, "which I got from Davis Hall at no cost," says Pahel. [Editor's note: the glass came from windows removed from George Davis Hall on the Knox campus during a renovation project in 1978-79.]

Pahel is quite happy with the success of his system. He estimates the total cost at about $800, "but I got $200 back on the solar tax credit."

Editor's Note: the author and photographer for the news release excerpted above was Bill Seith, one of Professor Pahel's students who also worked as a student assistant in public relations.