KEYSER, W.Va. — When late WVU Potomac State College faculty member, Chef Thomas Vieli, is mentioned in conversation among his peers, former students or friends, it is with fondness, respect and admiration.
And because of the profound effect Vieli had on his students and others around him, he was chosen as the 2021 faculty member to have his name inscribed on the Duke Anthony Whitmore/Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Academic Achievement Wall.
The honor was bestowed posthumously on Vieli, who lost his battle with cancer on May 28, 2013.
Known simply as Chef Thomas, Vieli oversaw the hospitality program at the college and served as the lead instructor from 2003 to 2013. In addition to students, employees, community members and alumni of the college, he prepared meals for dignitaries both stateside and abroad.
“I loved hearing his stories about preparing meals for former U.S. presidents, celebrities and other notable dignitaries during his time in Switzerland,” one co-worker said.
Vieli also enjoyed being active in the community and volunteered his time and expertise to various projects, including judging the Hampshire Review’s first cookbook, returning a year later to judge the second.
While at Potomac State College, he not only instructed his students, but immersed himself in their education by engaging them in experiential learning, like taking them on an international trip abroad, traveling to Switzerland, France and Germany where they learned about organic farming, assisted chefs in local restaurants and toured a dairy farm and winery among other activities; and taking them to Charleston during Mineral County Day at the Legislature where they prepared and served meals to hundreds of individuals.
Close friend Tom Sydow, who serves as an English professor at the college, said, “I have many fond memories of my friend, Chef T. He was truly a world-class person — wise, kind, gregarious and full of life. He was an inspiration to everyone he met, students, colleagues, friends. Sometimes, when I’m in the kitchen, I can imagine him there, sitting at the table, his familiar refrain, “yeap, yeap, yeap,” ringing in my mind. He made the world a better place.”
A graduate of the Zurich College of Hotel Management in Switzerland, Vieli had a 30-year career in the hospitality industry, holding numerous chef and management positions at corporations around the world as well as teaching at several universities.
He was an American Culinary Federation certified executive chef, a certified culinary educator, an approved certified evaluator and belonged to the honor society of the American Academy of Chefs, as well as a member of the Golden Cepes Order, and an NRA Certified ServeSafe certification instructor.