By Kylie Roman
Linda Rakowski has committed $25,000 to The Ohio University Foundation to establish and endow an award that recognizes excellence in research in the Department of Biological Sciences to honor the life and work of her late husband, Robert Rakowski.
A heart attack took Rakowski's life in February 2008. An internationally renowned researcher, he is remembered as a compassionate teacher and mentor, an enthusiastic fan of the women's volleyball team and a friend of Ohio University.
Rakowski joined the Ohio University faculty in 2000 as a professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. He stepped down from the administrative position in 2005 to devote more time to teaching and research. Rakowski was a member of the biomedical engineering program faculty.
His research focused on the study of cell function, specifically the mechanisms responsible for transporting sodium and potassium across cell membranes.
Rakowski's students shared remembrances of him.
"One of the fondest memories of him was his openness," wrote one student. "No one ever felt intimidated to approach him, even though he was one of the world's experts in his field. He welcomed questions and wanted us to understand the material he was sharing, often adding illustrations from his own life."
In addition to being dedicated to his students in the classroom, he was one of the women's volleyball team's most ardent fans.
"I knew him very well," a player wrote. "I am a junior and play volleyball at OU, and he was truly one of our biggest fans. An amazing professor and person."
The Robert F. Rakowski Award for Outstanding Research will recognize excellence in research in the Department of Biological Sciences as demonstrated by a published article that is expected to have significant impact on the field. Eligible papers are limited to those by a faculty member, post-doctoral fellow or graduate student published in or accepted to peer-review journals within five years of the date of the award.
"Science is building on the backs of scientists and other works," Linda Rakowski said. "Acknowledging outstanding published articles demonstrates just this."
Linda Rakowski and her daughter, Cara, designed the award together. They believe an award recognizing the culmination of a well-designed research project is a fitting tribute to Robert Rakowski.
"Most money in science is given out for what you propose to do, what you hope to accomplish, and for well-crafted intentions," Cara Rakowski said. "Explicit recognition of work well done is far less common."
"We wanted to remain connected to the university, honor my husband's memory, help promote someone's acclaim and to reflect well on the university now and later on in life," added Linda Rakowski.
Updated June 17, 2008.