Scholarship winners honor Olympic ideals

Chris Knowlton

Avery Brundage Scholarship winner Christopher Knowlton loves bioengineering and modern dance.

The distinctive characteristic of Avery Brundage Scholarships is that, although the students who win them are outstanding athletes, they’re not striving for a career in the pros – just like the original ideals of the Olympic Games.

This year, four UIC students — Abbi Lane, Justin Welke, Christopher Knowlton and Lukasz Adamczyk — were among 14 winners from the three University of Illinois campuses for the $2,500 scholarships, established through an endowment by a former Olympic Committee president.

Lane, a Ph.D. candidate in exercise physiology, is training for the Oct. 7 Chicago Marathon, running 16 miles a week.

“I ran a 10K and a half-marathon this year to gear up,” she said.

“There are probably more athletic people out there,” said Lane, who was a strength coach for the football and soccer teams at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, after receiving a master’s degree in 2005.

About running, she said, “I like the hard parts, then you get your second wind and there’s joy again.

“Each training is kind of an experiment. You’re always learning and pushing yourself.”

Lane, a native of Columbus, Ohio, hopes to be a college professor after completing her Ph.D.

Building character through basketball

Welke, who is in his second year of graduate studies in pediatric dentistry, coaches basketball in a summer league and for an eighth-grade team at St. Joseph School in Wilmette.

“It’s a team sport, fast-paced, and I really enjoy the challenge,” he said.

“I show them how to work together, take responsibility and be mature. It’s a great sport that not only builds the athlete but the person inside.”

A second sport, golf, also engages Welke. As volunteer director of a caddy scholarship named for former golfer Chick Evans, he lives in an Evanston house with the college kids he mentors as Evans scholars.

The challenge of dance

Knowlton, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in bioengineering, is a self-described “freelance dancer.”

“There are a lot of individual companies and choreographers in Chicago that work with professionals and amateurs,” he said. “It’s become a full-time hobby in my off hours.”

He studies at the Dance Center of Columbia College, Links Hall Studio in Wrigleyville and the Cameron Park Fieldhouse.

“Dancing is very challenging physically and mentally,” Knowlton said.

“There are a lot of subtleties you have to remember — engagement and interaction with the people you’re dancing with and understanding their personalities.”

No stopping on pommel horse

Adamczyk is a member of UIC’s gymnastics varsity team, where his specialty is the pommel horse.

“Not a lot of gymnasts enjoy it,” he said. “There’s no stopping. It’s a fluid motion kind of event.”

During the season he practices three hours a day, six days a week, despite his commute to campus from Deerfield.

A junior in premed, he is majoring in Spanish and biochemistry.

The Brundage scholarship program was established in 1974 through an endowment from Avery Brundage, a University of Illinois alumnus and former president of the International and U.S. Olympic committees.

The scholars must be working toward bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees. They must be in the top 25 percent of their undergraduate class or in good academic standing in their graduate program.

Abbi Lane: Ph.D. candidate in exercise physiology, marathon runner and Brundage Scholarship winner.

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