CSM Scholarship Gets Boost from Grandson’s Birthday

Evan Walsh Gurklis

Donations to the Charles K. Walsh Memorial Scholarship Honor Longtime Local Educator

Eight-year-old Evan Walsh Gurklis of Red Lion, Pennsylvania, could not wait to celebrate his birthday in November. He planned to invite teammates from his fall baseball league team and friends from his second-grade class. He begged his parents to have the party at a large sports complex near his home. And his plans had nothing to do with himself.

Instead, Evan's birthday plans would have a faraway impact on the College of Southern Maryland. Rather than bringing gifts, Evan asked his birthday guests to donate to a CSM scholarship fund, the Charles K. Walsh Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship was established in 2016 to honor Evan's “Paw Paw,” a much-loved grandfather and a much-loved, longtime educator in Southern Maryland who passed had away in April 2016 and would have celebrated his 77th birthday this February.

Evan's friends responded with enthusiasm to his request, with $300 given for Evan to gift to his grandfather's memorial scholarship.

The Charles K. Walsh Memorial Scholarship was established by Walsh's three children, Dr. Kathleen Walsh (Evan's mother), Thomas Walsh and Julie Fiol, “to help students at the College of Southern Maryland to realize their passion, potential and future with financial assistance for tuition, fees, and books.” The scholarship supports Southern Maryland residents who demonstrate financial need with a preference for St. Mary's County students majoring in STEM, teacher education, human services or social sciences and who are traditionally underrepresented in their field of study.

Commemorating their father with a scholarship was an ideal way to honor the longtime educator, according to Kathleen, or “Kat,” Evan's mother. Charles Walsh was interested in everyone having a chance to succeed, she said, describing him as incredibly dedicated to his craft. Even after 50 years in education, “he was still trying to be better,” she said. “I love that.”

His 50-year career in math and chemistry education included years teaching at both private and public schools in the region, more than 20 years with St. Mary's County Public Schools (including service as supervisor of mathematics) and as an adjunct and then associate professor at CSM.

The inaugural Brick Recognition Ceremony at the Leonardtown Campus held last year on April 27, not long after Charles Walsh passed away, included a brick placed in Walsh's memory. “The CSM Brick Program provides both a way to memorialize and pay tribute to loved ones and members of the community who are our true champions,” said Dr. Tracy Harris, vice president and dean of the Leonardtown Campus. Ironically, Walsh had bought one of those bricks for himself, which, after his death, became a memorial brick in his honor. The Walsh family members who had gathered for his funeral attended the Brick Recognition Ceremony first and then his funeral service. Evan, who like his “Paw Paw” loves math and spent hours with him on the phone and on FaceTime talking about his homework, participated in the service by reading “The Starfish Story.” The story is about a boy laboring to save a multitude of starfish that had washed ashore by throwing them back into the water, one by one. When a passerby tells him he is wasting his time, the boy responds that he would do what he could to save as many as possible. It is the story of a dedicated educator like Evan's grandfather.

“He was sobbing through the whole thing,” Kat said of her son.

Setting up the memorial fund has provided an outlet for the family as they mourn, Kat said. It allowed Evan to remember and honor his “Paw Paw” in a tangible way. In addition, as members of the community participate in the scholarship fund by giving, the family is reminded over and over of the generations of Southern Maryland families that Charles Walsh affected.

“It's … amazingly touching,” Kat said of learning from the college about all the people who have donated. “It's probably one of the only things I've found comforting. So many people respected my dad.”

Shortly after Evan's birthday, the CSM Foundation publicly launched its $10-million “Make An Impact” campaign Nov. 29, 2016, on Giving Tuesday, giving the community a chance to participate in the campaign that will benefit scholarships, programs/facilities and entrepreneur partnerships at the college. It was during that event when Evan donated his $300 in birthday gifts to the Charles K. Walsh Memorial Scholarship. He was not alone. The Walsh scholarship brought in more than $2,500. Altogether, the event raised $70,152 from 271 donors.

CSM math professor Susan Strickland, a former coworker with Walsh, was one who donated toward the Walsh scholarship on Giving Tuesday. “It means a lot to me to be able to contribute to a scholarship in Charlie's name,” Strickland said. “Charlie spent his entire life involved in education, whether as a teacher, an administrator, or a professor at CSM. He would be deeply humbled at having a scholarship in his name, but knowing that the money could benefit a student who might not otherwise be able to enroll at CSM would mean the world to him.”

The Walsh Scholarship is one of the many scholarships that have been created in memory of CSM faculty and staff, which include: the Professor William “Bill” Montgomery Memorial Annual Scholarship, established by CSM faculty and staff in memory of CSM Professor Bill Montgomery, and an endowed scholarship named after the professor, established by his wife, Susan Montgomery, to provide financial assistance for CSM students who demonstrate financial need and have overcome a hardship; the Susan N. Behmke Legacy Scholarship, established by the CSM Health Sciences Division in honor of former CSM Nursing Professor Susan Behmke to assist first- or second-semester students from the tri-county area in the Practical Allied Health/Nursing, Nurse or Associate Degree Nursing programs; the Renee Munday Math Scholarship, established by CSM staff in memory of CSM staff member Renee Munday to provide financial assistance for non-traditional aged students residing in Charles County who are enrolled at CSM as a part-time student; and the Sidney John Francis Waugh, Sr. Memorial Scholarship, established by the Waugh family in memory of CSM Staff Member Sidney Waugh, Sr. to provide financial assistance for both credit and continuing education students who reside in Bel Alton or Newburg in Charles County.

“These scholarships truly reflect the close family we become as faculty and staff at CSM and demonstrate the CSM love that goes beyond the workplace,” said Development Director Chelsea Brown. “These people made such an impact on the lives around them that others turn around and create a scholarship in their memory.” She added that celebrating the stories behind the many memorial scholarships at CSM is particularly appropriate in February, as the college celebrates CSM Love, a month-long effort for the college to show extra appreciation to CSM students, staff and community members for their contribution to student life and the college family.

For information about creating an annual or endowed scholarship at CSM, call 301-934-7649 or email CSMFoundation@csmd.edu. To donate to the Charles K. Walsh Memorial Scholarship, go to https://donate.csmd.edu/ and click on the drop-down menu next to “designation.”