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Student dies in fall from Bldg 54

A memorial service will be held at the MIT Chapel tomorrow at 3pm for Philip C. Gale, a sophomore music major who fell to his death from a 15th-floor classroom in Building 54 last Friday evening. Campus Police said it was an apparent suicide. A reception will follow in the Mezzanine Lounge (third floor of Student Center).

Mr. Gale, 19, a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, shared a Cambridge apartment with two fraternity brothers. Originally from Charlotte, NC, Mr. Gale also lived in California, Utah and Oregon.

Campus police, the Professional Ambulance advanced life support unit and an MIT employee tried to revive Mr. Gale at the scene. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Massachusetts General Hospital at 7:57pm. The Middlesex County Medical Examiner ruled that death resulted from multiple traumatic injuries.

Because of the location and the time of day, many students witnessed the event. They told Campus Police that Mr. Gale broke a window with a chair and cleared away the shards before leaping.

Senior Associate Dean Robert Randolph issued a statement on Saturday reporting the incident to the MIT community. The news also was sent via e-mail to housemasters and graduate residential tutors and reported on the News Office web page.

In reporting the event, Dean Randolph said, "We urge students and other members of the MIT community who need counseling to call the Medical Department (x3-4481) and ask for the psychiatrist on call, or the Counseling Support Service (x3-4861)."

Mr. Gale was 15 when he enrolled at MIT in 1994 after graduating from the Delphian Academy in Oregon, intending to major in physics. He left the next year to become director of research and development for the Earthlink Network, an Internet service provider.

Mr. Gale, who played the drums, returned to MIT in 1996 and was majoring in music. Last fall, he took a course taught by Media Laboratory Professor Tod Machover, Musical Aesthetics and Media Technology. Professor Machover recalled him as "a quiet, serious, unusual, talented and brilliant young man.

"I am deeply saddened by Phil's passing, and will very much miss the opportunity to work with him more closely and get to know him better, and to watch his ideas and dreams blossom into the mature and important contributions that I sense they would have become," said Professor Machover, the creator of Brain Opera, which has received widespread recognition.

Although Mr. Gale didn't speak much in class, "I knew from his comments and midterm paper that he had absorbed, digested and personalized the ample reading and listening assignments concerning the techniques and concepts of electronic and computer music," Professor Machover said.

He encouraged Mr. Gale to design a UROP project for the Hyperinstru-ments/Opera of the Future group. "As seemed typical of Phil, he went his own way, and after three months of not hearing from him, he got back to me just last week with another completely different idea for a UROP project," Professor Machover said.

Mr. Gale proposed to develop a way to analyze diverse sounds, among them crowd noises, nature sounds and machines clanging, permitting them to be organized and associated according to rhythmic, loudness, and coloristic similarities. "The idea was great, and very much in line with some of the more ambitious hopes that our group has for the future of music," Professor Machover said. "Phil was going to start work on the project right away, and I have no doubt that it would have yielded spectacular and unexpected results."

Upon returning to MIT as a music major, Mr. Gale performed with the MIT Concert Choir and the Gamelan Galek Tika, a percussion group which plays traditional Balinese music.

Mr. Gale is survived by his mother, Marie, of Broadbent, OR, and a sister, Elizabeth. Funeral services were private.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 18, 1998.

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