Peter Marvit never missed rehearsal with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, and this week, he showed up wearing one of his trademark ties — short, fat and brightly colored. After the three-hour practice concluded with “Carol of the Angels,” the music director, Tom Hall, told everyone “to drive safe and be well.”
But as Marvit, 51, returned to his Northeast Baltimore home, the scientist and contract researcher for the National Institutes of Health was gunned down Monday just steps from his front door in a seemingly random attack that police said Tuesday may have been a robbery.
Friends and colleagues described Marvit as witty and good-natured. Marvit, who had a psychology PhD, conducted research on hearing and worked to bring music education to impoverished city children.
“There was no one that I could think of who tried more diligently and with greater effort to expand [musical] opportunities for city schools students,” said Kelly Powers, director of the Baltimore Talent Education Center. “The senselessness — you hear that all the time, but that’s exactly what it is.”
Officers responded about 10:30 p.m. Monday to a 911 call from the Herring Run Park area and found Marvit suffering from head and chest wounds.
A neighbor, Catharine Victorson, said she heard six gunshots, a pause, and heard a woman screaming. The area, in the Belair-Edison neighborhood, is not generally considered dangerous.
Police are investigating Marvit’s shooting as robbery-related, but they said it was only a presumption by detectives given the lack of other possible motives.
A Facebook page under Marvit’s name lists a doctorate in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and degrees in English, music and computer science from Oberlin College.
He was working as a clinical trials analyst and did quality assurance work at ICF Inter on a contract with NIH, according to the company and an NIH spokeswoman.
Karen A. Robinson, a spokeswoman with the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, said Marvit completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the school from 2002 to 2005 and then worked as a research associate in the school’s laboratories from November 2005 to December 2006. He also spent time at U-Md.’s College Park campus as a postdoctoral fellow, she said.
At U-Md., Marvit helped graduate students collect data in experiments aimed at determining what sounds birds can hear and what sounds they can differentiate.
A former colleague at College Park, Ed Smith, recalled Marvit as a “jovial man, a clever researcher, a helpful colleague and a good father.”
Hall, the choral group’s music director, said Marvit was chosen to take part in a dance routine for its performance with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
“He was a terrific scientist and a great researcher, but music was something that was extremely important to him,” said Hall, the co-host of WYPR radio’s “Maryland Morning.” “He was not a dilettante. He was a serious musician and an excellent singer.”
Hall said Marvit often wore “strange bow ties, almost clownish.” “He didn’t do it in an outrageous way. I just think it was a metaphor for how bright and positive he was about everything. You could see it in his eyes.”
Marvit, who could play violin, piano and guitar, became board president of the Baltimore Talent Education Center, which had 160 students enrolled from 35 schools before the program lost funding from the city school system in 2009.
“For a man as talented and with as many options as Peter had, that he never left this city and never left the task of opening more arts possibilities for city school students is one of our more remarkable stories,” Powers said.
— Baltimore Sun