Obituary -- Michael Alfred Selig

SELIG, Michael Alfred -- Former Director of Engineering at NORESCO located in Fairfax, VA and headquartered in Westborough, MA, died on February 22, 2011 after a long and demanding battle with metastatic cancer. He was 55 years old.

Born in Vienna the eldest child of Austrian parents, Mr. Selig's family immigrated to Irving, Texas in 1959. After achieving U.S. citizenship in eleven years, and with two additional siblings, the family moved back to Europe for several years. This relocation and exposure to different cultures enabled Mr. Selig to develop a deep and lasting appreciation and aptitude for foreign languages, customs, cuisine, and culture that always remained with him. Indeed, international travel was one of Mr. Selig's most enjoyable and rewarding activities throughout his life.

Mr. Selig earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1977, whereupon he immediately established his career path in the advancement of energy efficiency and renewable energy. His employment has always centered on efficiency improvements in existing processes and buildings, and technological developments in new and most often renewable energy concepts. Always a conservationist at home as well, Mr. Selig powered his Boston apartment on photovoltaic electricity for almost two years (prior to marrying Elizabeth Willingham in 1983), and has continued to operate a solar electric system for various applications around the familyhouse.

A strong organizer and leader who naturally motivated and enthusiastically inspired those around him, Mr. Selig regularly explored new activities, sports, and challenges both professionally and personally. From the creator of a model rocketry club during childhood to organized pilgrimages to learn what was then the new environmental sport of the day - paragliding - Mr. Selig was always pursuing new adventures in life. He led an adult recreational soccer team, played bass in a string band, later coached his children's soccer teams, and began (but never finished) a project to build a tree house 70 feet over his back yard in Arlington, VA. In Dorchester, MA, Mr. Selig built a seven foot retaining wall, a back yard, and a laundry, a home brewery, and a Finnish sauna in his 100 year old Victorian home. He was an avid skier and windsurfer, and was just beginning to learn to kite surf.

Professionally, Mr. Selig had the good fortune of being selected in 1992 to join Michael Dukakis and numerous Commonwealth of Massachusetts dignitaries and business leaders in an Environmental Trade Mission to central and eastern Europe, a trip designed to promote Massachusetts environmental businesses in new markets after the fall of the Berlin wall. The trip was paramount in developing a number of engineering projects, most notably a multi-million dollar expansion of the district heating system in Krakow, Poland. Over time, Mr. Selig built a reputation in the Boston business community for being well-versed in growing businesses overseas, and was a speaker and panel member at numerous meetings and conferences dedicated to the subject.

While Mr. Selig was a hard worker in his career, he was also adamant about striking a balance between his professional and personal lives. He was a family man who taught his children about the challenges and joys of life. Vacations took him and his family to far-away destinations where his children were exposed to foreign languages and food, not infrequently to the land of his children's partial heritage, Austria. When not traveling internationally, free time was spent motorcycling, camping, brewing beer, playing chess and bridge, gardening, and generally adding to life's experiences and challenges.

Mr. Selig is survived by his wife Elizabeth Willingham and children Michael and Alexandra of Arlington, VA, his parents Franz and Marianne of Vienna, Austria, his brother Martin of Boston, MA, and his sister Nicola Kim of Little Rock, AR.

In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to the Solar Electric Light Fund, 1612 K Street, NW Washington, DC ( or purchase REC's or SREC's from your local utility or travel service provider.

Published in The Boston Globe on February 24, 2011


Eulogy for Michael Alfred Selig (1955-2011)
In the St. Stephen's School Alumni Bulletin, Class of 1972

Mike passed away at 12:58 pm on Feb. 22, 2011, at his home in Alexandria, Virginia. His wife, Bet, had called me a few days earlier when the medical people told her he didn't have much time left. Having just completed nursing school, I felt fortunate to be able to be of some small comfort and support to Mike's family -- Bet, 19-year old daughter Alexandra, 22-year old son Michael -- in their grief, and even more fortunate to have enjoyed a lifetime of friendship with this remarkable man.

You are reading this so you are probably one of our St. Stephen's Class of 1972. You surely remember Mike. He was our high achiever, a straight A student and every teacher's favorite. I barely hung on in Calculus as Dr. Hall and Mike dug into the intricacies of differential equations (Dr. Hall having written that day's chapter of our textbook the night before). Steven Schneebaum taught us Nietzsche, the categorical imperative, amor fati, and utilitarianism. Mike glided effortlessly through it all. For all his academic excellence, Mike was also an adventurer and a rebellious teenager, smoking illicit substances on weekends with the rest of us troublemakers, tearing around on our motorbikes, and speculating on the virtues of our female classmates. Rome was a stupendous backdrop for adolescence and Mike was the best of pals to explore it with.

Mike and I were the Rome Rocketry Club, predicting (with one of my first Fortran programming efforts) the altitude of our model rockets. Mike was the real scientist, having developed the mathematical model for the coefficient of aerodynamic drag and my first and only exposure to hyperbolic trigonometric functions. The rockets rarely cooperated by flying even vaguely as we'd predicted.

Mike got his Bachelor's degree at MIT where I visited him each summer, crossing the country from the University of California where I was getting mine. Visionary as always, he had wired his tiny, grundgy college-student Beacon Hill apartment to run on the 12 volts supplied by his rooftop solar panel. That was back in the mid-'70s. In his career he grew to be a master of energy engineering and its conservation and eventually the wise and beloved mentor of a new generation of engineers. Everybody loved Mike!

When, in 2009 he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, Mike explained that not long ago it would have meant only months to live but with modern medical care he might have as much as two years, as indeed he did. They came at a price, suffering through dreadful therapies, surgical and chemical, and the wasting away of his body formerly so vigorous and athletic. Mike had been a soccer player and paraglider. Despite his form rendered gaunt and wan, his spirit shone, cogent and wisecracking even on his last day. Our last few conversations are unforgettable, shorn of pretense, harsh reality. Mike had no patience for sentimentality -- "It is what it is," he said, paradoxically becoming the comforting, centered one. His wisdom went far beyond industrial energy systems to life energy. His clarity and acceptance were profound guidance to everyone around him.

I appreciate the opportunity to share these thoughts with you, my St. Stephens classmates. How fragile and priceless are cherished friendships of youth and life. How quickly they can be taken from us yet they are with us -- they are us! -- always and forever.

-- Dan Keller, '72

Thoughts on Death

Yes, the year since Michael's passing has gone quickly. As we age, the years go faster and faster, roaring in our ears, until, as following Michael's last moment, there is a sudden silence. It was also so with my father's passing in 2006. That sudden moment of eerie unreality. The bizarre corpse. Disorientation, untethering.

I don't want any more of these but of course the pace of them will only increase as the people who are our world drop around us. How bleak.

--Dan, March, 2012

Years later, Mike is still fondly recalled...
On 1/7/2016 Turner, James O. wrote:

Hi Dan,

We donít know each other, but I had the pleasure of working and
traveling with Mike when he was doing pollution abatement work in Poland.

I think of him often and feel very lucky to have known such an
interesting and interested individual.  We worked hard, thought
hard, drank hard, talked long and had a great time.  I really miss
those times, they were pretty wonderful.

I happened to run across your tribute page and just wanted to say thanks.
It was really great to see some of those photos.  And who could forget
that handwriting?  Unique for sure (I hear Thomas Pynchon also has
unusually distinctive handwriting, so maybe itís characteristic of the
freewheeling and unblinkered mind.)

Anyway, thanks again for making the time and effort to post.
I certainly appreciated stumbling across it.

Jim Turner

The Gift

Eleven years since his passing I still think of him often. I don't know what evoked this particular memory but it's a strong one.

Mike was cogent to the end. More than cogent, he was clear, calm, brilliant. He faced his mortality without fear or struggle. "It is what it is," he said to we who moped and moaned around him in those final days. His cancer-ravaged body was little more than skin wrapped around a skeleton. But his eyes shone bright.

And he gave me a gift, a gift I will carry always. Indeed, I will work on it and polish it and turn it into something remarkable. A couple of days before he died, he asked for his guitar. He played a tune -- not a bad one! -- I'd written in high school and completely forgotten, "A Man and a Maid," with a pretty good melody and chords, and lyrics I'd adapted from a poem by D.H.Laurence. He gave me a piece of myself.

Mike, you amazed right to the end.

--Dan, September, 2022