Out of Brookville High School, Rick Kinsel first went to Sinclair Community College, then Ohio State.
His next stop was the L’Ecole du Louvre in Paris, France’s leading academic institution in the field of art history research.
The education path put Kinsel well on his way to where he is today, executive director of The Vilcek Foundation, which “honors and supports foreign-born scientists and artists who have made outstanding contributions to society in the United States.”
That might be a long way from Brookville, but Kinsel, who was honored this summer by his high school as its outstanding alum for the year, doesn’t think it’s much of a stretch.
Kinsel says he learned much about American history and the arts on summer family vacations (with two older sisters and a brother) and he was a regular in the library, both in Brookville and Dayton.
Because he was on assignment in Santa Fe, N.M., awarding fellowships to “aspiring young opera singers” on the night he was honored at Brookville, Kinsel had sister, Pam Sasai, deliver a moving speech in his place.
“When I speak of my childhood,” Kinsel wrote, “I tell people that I came from a warm and culturally rich area, because I believe I did. I grew up with a positive and healthy awareness of religious and increasing ethnic diversity.”
He also surprised his dad, former teacher and Brookville athletics director Dennis Kinsel, by noting a trip to see the 1977 King Tut exhibition at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago made a huge impression.
“Something magical happened,” Rick Kinsel said. “I became really captivated by the arts, and a door opened for me; a door that would never shut.”
His father was surprised.
“He claimed the visit we took to Chicago was a turning point for him,” Dennis Kinsel said. “He was quite young (nine), actually. He really didn’t have an interest in art history until he went to Columbus (to go to Ohio State).”
Yet even his father — Rick’s mother died in an auto accident when he was 18 — admits he can look back and see what was happening.
“He was always observing,” Dennis said. “We went to a lot of historic places. Even though we (his parents) didn’t think so, he was always observant of that. He probably got a little more exposure than a lot of people to do a lot of things.”
Eventually, Rick Kinsel moved to New York and was hired by Marica Vilcek, curator of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Not only was it a job he loved, Kinsel became close with Vilcek, who emigrated with her scientist-husband, Dr. Jan T. Vilcek, from Czechoslovakia in 1965 and founded the Vilcek Foundation in 2000. She hired Kinsel as her first employee.
The Vilceks mentored Kinsel, teaching him how to run their foundation. They put him also in position to help administer a $105 million donation the couple made in 2005 to the New York University School of Medicine five years ago.
The donation by Jan Vilcek, a doctor and professor of microbiology at NYU, is one of the largest gifts ever made to a U.S. university. Vilcek donated a percentage of his royalties for helping to invent the therapeutic drug infliximab, widely used for the treatment of inflammatory disorders including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis. The donation is being used to support both research and education programs at NYU.
The Vilceks are from Czechoslovakia, Kinsel is from Brookville.
“Everybody is from some place,” Kinsel said. “New York is a sea of immigrants. I feel I emigrated from Ohio.”
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2157 or mkatz@DaytonDailyNews.c