Bowie High School senior Harrison Waugh, left, and teachers Dives Richards… (Greg Dohler/The Gazette )
Passionate about math and science, Bowie High School graduate Chuck Pacholkiw wanted a career in physics after college to delve even deeper into the fundamental nature of matter and the workings of the universe.
But in November 2010, one semester before he would have earned his undergraduate degree in physics at the University of Maryland, College Park, Pacholkiw died of adenocarcinoma, a cancer that arises from glandular tissue.
He was 23.
His passion for math and physics still resonates with his teachers, family and friends, who want to pass the baton to another Bowie High student focused on a career in math or physics. They are organizing a charity run April 14 to raise money for a scholarship created last year in Pacholkiw’s honor.
“He was a few credits short of graduating when he died,” said Bowie High teacher Kelly Price, who established the Chuck Pacholkiw Memorial Scholarship last year to keep his academic ambitions alive.
“It’s a way of helping students get the degree that he didn’t,” said Price, who is working with Bowie High math teacher Dives Richards to organize the race with the help of Pacholkiw’s family, friends and Bowie High student volunteers.
Organizers hope the proceeds will allow last year’s $500 scholarship amount to at least double, said Janet Pacholkiw of Greenbelt, Pacholkiw’s mother.
Janet Pacholkiw will be working with Price, family members and others on a committee that will evaluate the scholarship applications, which are due April 13. The recipient will be announced at the high school’s scholarship awards ceremony, tentatively scheduled for May 10.
The 3.1-mile race route starts at the Bowie High track and football field, follows Moylan and Millstream drives and returns to the field. The cost to register is $15 online and $20 the day of the race.
Bowie businesses also are participating by donating prizes for the runners, Price said.
She said Chesapeake Grille & Deli is donating 10 gift certificates, each worth $10; Cetrone’s Pizza is donating a certificate for a free pizza for some of the winners and providing pizza for all of the volunteers; Rita’s is giving a free Italian ice coupon to all the runners; Grass Monkeys Lawn Care has donated $25; and Benevolent Care Corp., which provides assisted living services, bought a $50 ad.
Several businesses outside the city also are contributing, Price said.
Janet Pacholkiw said she was “astounded” by her son’s range of interests and his fascination with physics, particularly because he struggled with math as an eighth-grader at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie until he started tutoring sessions.
“Everything just suddenly clicked in his mind, and he took off,” said Janet Pacholkiw, who watched her son excel academically while he became a leader through the Junior ROTC program and captain of the school ice hockey team.
“He was a very good reader,” said Price, who taught Pacholkiw literature in her advanced placement English class during his senior year. “He’d make witty comments, but they were still relevant and connected to what we were studying. It was a mark of his intellect.”
After stints at Ohio State University and Montgomery College, Pacholkiw transferred to the University of Maryland, which has an accredited physics program.
His Bowie High School friend, Zack Martin, said he sometimes would meet Pacholkiw for coffee, and they would talk about life’s deeper issues, which he said Pacholkiw explored through physics.
“Chuck always looked to the stars,” Janet Pacholkiw said. “He believed we hadn’t discovered a millionth of what there was to learn.”
In spring 2009, after competing in a dodgeball tournament to raise money for diabetes research, Pacholkiw began to feel pain in his back, which did not go away throughout the summer. In the fall, doctors found inoperable cancerous tumors on his spine. Pacholkiw continued going to classes and working as a line cook in restaurants to cover tuition while undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, but in fall 2010, he was too sick to finish his last semester.
“There’s nothing to say,” Janet Pacholkiw said. “You watch a child die — you ask why, but there’s no answer. God called him home.”
For information or to register for the race, visit www.active.com and search for Pacholkiw, or e-mail Price at firstname.lastname@example.org.