Gilbert Richard Hoy was a man of many passions.
One of them – physics – helped him gain international recognition for his research during a 45-year career in higher education, including more than 30 years at Old Dominion University.
Another – singing – led him to record a CD … and meet his future wife.
Hoy, who was chair of the Physics Department from 1980 to 1989, died Jan. 15. He was 90.
Hoy came to ODU in 1980 and retired as an Eminent Scholar Emeritus and professor emeritus in 2007. He taught as an adjunct professor until 2011.
“Gil Hoy was passionate about everything he did,” said Charles I. Sukenik, professor and chair of the Physics Department. “He loved teaching, he loved his research, he was fanatical about physical fitness and later in life he pursued his musical interests. He also possessed a wealth of institutional knowledge and was always happy to provide guidance to younger faculty.”
Professor Emeritus James Cox led the search committee that recruited Hoy.
“I’ve known him from the beginning,” said Cox, who succeeded Hoy as department chair. “That’s when we were just beginning our Ph.D. program. We were trying to get someone in who could help us strengthen that program a bit.
“He was a good colleague to work with, and he had a very enjoyable personality. It was good to work with him all those years.”
Hoy came to ODU from Boston University. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in general engineering from Davis and Elkins College and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in physics from Cornell University and the Carnegie Institute of Technology, respectively.
“He loved teaching, he loved his research, he was fanatical about physical fitness and later in life he pursued his musical interests." - Charles Sukenik, Physics Department chair
Hoy was considered a pioneer in Mössbauer Spectroscopy – a technique that can give very precise information about the chemical, structural, magnetic and time-dependent properties of a material – both experimentally and theoretically. He was also internationally recognized for his U.S. patent for a gamma-ray laser and his development of a gamma emission system and method. He published more than 50 research papers in leading refereed physics journals.
He collaborated with many institutions and labs in the U.S. and abroad. Through his work at the Katholieke Universteit in Belgium, he forged a lasting research collaboration with physics Professor Jos Odeurs.
“I consider Gil my best friend I ever had,” Odeurs wrote in a remembrance he shared with the Hoy family. “We could discuss not only physics – which was a great experience together – but almost everything else. Various aspects of art, American politics, touristic places, wine and beer ... you name it and we talked about it! Our conversations were great, great fun! His visits to Leuven and mine to Norfolk were the best periods in my life.”
Late in his academic career, he decided to study singing and met his future wife, Karen, when he applied for voice lessons through the ODU Community Music School in 1998. Karen, who holds a master’s degree in vocal performance from the Juilliard School of Music, and Hoy shared a love of music, especially jazz. After years of study, he recorded a CD titled – appropriately enough – “Another Passion” – with his daughter Tracy, a pop singer, and several Boston-area musicians.
“I met Gil and Karen through the Cantabile Project, where they mentored and nurtured young singers,” Debra Burrell wrote in a memorial post. “It was a pleasure to know two such devoted, passionate and educated people.”
Hoy was also a big fan of the ODU field hockey team. “He rarely missed a game, and always ran up and down the sidelines shouting encouragement with loud enthusiasm,” his online obituary noted.
In addition to his wife, Hoy is survived by his four children: Gilbert Hoy Jr., Deacon Hoy, Tracy Hoy Clark and Valerie Viale Fuller.