After serving as Morse College master for over a decade, Frank Keil announced Wednesday that he and his wife, Associate Master Kristi Lockhart, will step down at the end of the semester to focus on their academic careers.

Keil and Lockhart, who were appointed in 2001, saw the college through its renovation during the 2009-’10 academic year. Keil said the two had decided to leave once Morse students settled into their new college, calling the time “a natural closure point.” Though the email announcing Keil’s departure came as a shock to students, Keil and his wife said they had anticipated their departure since before the renovation. University President Richard Levin said administrators have not begun a search for his replacement.

“Whoever comes in will have a leg up just because of the foundation he’s laid for the next master,” master’s aid and former Morse College Council Co-President David Langdon ’13 said. “The college is lively as ever, and there’s quite a sense of community that can mostly be attributed to Master Keil.”

While Keil said he and his wife initially planned to serve two five-year terms in their positions, they requested another year from Levin in order to ensure a smooth transition into the newly-renovated facilities.

“It’s hard to stop because you’re addicted to the kids,” said Keil. “But at some point it’s such a wonderful opportunity, you need to share it around some.”

Presently, Keil is also serving as the interim chair of the Council of Masters this academic year while Calhoun Master Jonathan Holloway GRD ’95 is on sabbatical. Levin said that Holloway will return in the fall to resume his post.

Kevin Adkisson ’12, an architecture major, master’s aide and two-year member of the MCC, said Keil’s dedication to the college’s character was evident throughout its renovation.

“He respects the history of both the college and the architecture,” Adkisson said. “Master Keil fought to keep the original Saarinen stairways and library; he wanted to keep his buildings.”

Marlena Vasquez ’13, a co-chair of the Morse Student Activities Committee, said Keil and Lockhart would often attend MCC and SAC meetings, and would help plan student activities and events. When Morse prepared for its traditional Valentine’s Day chocolate-tasting event last year, Lockhart drove several MCC members to buy expensive candy and chocolates for the event, Vasquez said.

But Master Keil’s constant involvement in the college’s activities did not force him to sacrifice his academic pursuits, his wife said. Keil continued to run the Cognition and Development lab, work with graduate students and teach throughout his tenure as master, she said.

“He’s super approachable and super visible,” said Cathy Huang ’14, another MCC member. “It’s easy to forget that he’s also teaching classes and doing his own research.”

Morsel Natalie Langburd ’14 said she has not had much regular contact with Keil, but wishes she had developed a closer relationship with him during his tenure.

Lockhart said changing masters is necessary for bringing fresh ideas into the college and shaping it with new activities. After finishing their time in Morse, the two will return to their house in Guilford, Conn., she added.

Levin said administrators will appoint a search committee for Keil’s successor in the near future.

The only current masters who arrived before Keil are Silliman Master Judith Krauss NUR ’70 and Pierson Master Harvey Goldblatt GRD ’77.