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Kenneth M. Flurchick (1951-2018)

On 2 June 2018, Dr. Kenneth M. Flurchick passed away peacefully in his sleep in Greensboro, North Carolina, after bravely battling a long illness. Dr. Flurchick was born on 21 August 1951 in Paterson, New Jersey. He graduated with honors in mathematics from William Paterson College in Wayne, New Jersey in 1975. He was then admitted to the graduate program in physics at the Colorado State University (CSU) and received his Master's degree in physics in 1979 and his Ph.D in physics in 1987.

It was during these years that, while serving as a graduate teaching assistant for the elementary astronomy course at CSU, he developed what was to become an enduring interest in astronomy. In addition to receiving superior student evaluations in his position as teaching assistant in astronomy, his talent in writing computer script enabled him to co-author the instructor's manual for the laboratory text "An Introduction to Experimental Astronomy," which was published by W.H. Freeman and Co.

After receiving his Ph.D, Ken embarked on a successful career in supercomputers. He served as a research scientist at the North Carolina Supercomputing Center, the Director for Scientific Programs at the Ohio Supercomputer Center, and as a funded affiliate faculty at East Carolina University in the Physics Department and Information Technology and Computing Services. During this time, he published some 40 papers relating to computational physics, chemistry, and engineering. Throughout this period he never lost his interest in astronomy, co-authoring several poster papers on the relationship between supercomputers and astronomy at the undergraduate student level. He even named his longtime beloved cat after the summertime star Altair.

In 2008 Ken joined the faculty at North Carolina A&T State University where he quickly became an indispensable joint faculty member in both the Physics and Computational Science and Engineering Departments. In his time at North Carolina A&T, he taught eight different upper division and graduate courses in computer programing, and established both a student computer laboratory,and a high performance computational facility for a variety of scientific and engineering disciplines.

Ken’s hard work led to him being awarded tenure at North Carolina A&T in 2014. Upon receiving tenure, the astronomy side of Ken immediately blossomed. He joined the American Astronomical Society, as well as the Global Network of Astronomical Telescopes (GNAT), an astronomical consortium based in Tucson, Arizona. He became an integral part of developing the reduction protocols for GNAT’s Moving Object and Transient Event Search System (MOTESS) catalogues and other GNAT projects involving large data sets. At the time of his passing, he had taken on a student with an interest in computer modeling of the evolution of exoplanet systems and monitored him through a Master's degree, on his way to a Ph.D.

Ken was a superb chess player who routinely defeated any and all faculty and graduate students who were willing to play him. He also amassed a magnificent comic book collection with a special emphasis on early Batman issues. His knowledge of science fiction bordered on the encyclopedic, and at the time of his passing, he was in the process of co-writing an astronomy themed science fiction novel with noted science fiction writer L. Neil Smith.

Throughout the last decade of his life, Ken was confined to a wheelchair and valiantly confronted a number of serious health issues. Never did he ever let these problems impact his academic talent, and courageously conducted his affairs in spite of these difficulties to the very end. His keen intellect and dry wit will be sorely missed.

Photo courtesy of Roger Culver.

Obituary written by: Roger B. Culver (Colorado State University)

BAAS Citation: BAAS, 2018, 50, 025