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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Memorial held for graduate student who died in bicycle accident last year

Near a ginkgo tree planted in his memory, family, friends and co-workers gathered by Frazier Rogers Hall on Tuesday morning to try to make sense of McNair Bostick?s death.

Bostick, a 34-year-old agricultural engineering doctoral student, was killed Aug. 28, 2006, when he was hit by a car while riding his bike on Southwest Williston Road.

One year later, those close to him gathered to commemorate his life and stress the importance of bicycle safety to avoid accidents like the one that caused his death.

But for all the emphasis on safety, Bostick?s father, Welch Bostick, made it clear the memorial was about honoring his son.

"We were, and we still are, very proud of his accomplishments," Welch said.

Bostick was posthumously awarded his Ph.D. in December 2006, according to a flier handed out at the memorial.

At the memorial, James W. Jones, Bostick?s major professor in lab, announced a ,500 scholarship established in Bostick?s memory would be awarded to a Ph.D. student following in Bostick?s general field of study.

Jones described Bostick?s research as very important.

"I still get e-mails asking about him and his work," Jones said. "I just got two e-mails asking about the research he was doing in Africa." Bostick?s research involved getting funding for farmers in Africa to increase the amount of carbon stored in soil.

This would prevent carbon dioxide from escaping into the atmosphere and have a positive effect on global warming.

The lab is working hard to continue Bostick?s research, Jones said.

Jones recalled that in addition to his academic achievements, Bostick was highly committed to developing personal relationships.

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"He was an unusual student," Jones said. "He was so good academically, yet he would give his time when people came here to help them get settled."

Co-workers remember Bostick as friendly to everyone.

"He was kind of the glue that held together the lab," said Cheryl Porter, coordinator for lab computers. "When a new student came into the lab, it seemed like he was always the one who helped them find an apartment and buy furniture."

Bostick?s death, as well as at least two other bike accidents that have happened to department members, have prompted his co-workers and friends to advocate the importance of bicycle safety.

Through this advocacy, some are finding a source of comfort.

"Probably our main concern was trying to make sense out of nonsense, and that?s why the emphasis on bike safety," said Jon Lizaso, one of Bostick?s co-workers who organized the memorial.

Before the memorial, Bostick?s sister, Julie Bostick, distributed "Share the Road" bumper stickers, which encourage motorists and bicyclists to be aware of each other.

Holding Bostick?s almost 2-year-old son, Luca, Julie spoke about her brother?s passion for biking with words of caution.

"Be careful on the roads, and tell everyone you know to be careful," she said.

"Biking is fun. I haven?t given it up, but I?m way more careful than I used to be. I feel like he rides with me."

Carmen Valero-Aracama described her late husband as enthusiastic about safety but said bicyclists are more vulnerable than motorists despite the best precautions.

"McNair was very concerned about safety," she said. "I thought he was very excited about it. I think he did everything he could to be safe, but it?s not always up to the bicyclist."

Julie said her brother?s accident is an example of what happens when lax laws allow people to forget their responsibility to pay attention and keep the roads safe.

According to an editorial from The Gainesville Sun?s archives, the driver who hit Bostick was charged with failing to maintain a single lane, resulting in a serious injury or death. The charge is punishable by a ,1,000 fee and one-year license suspension.

"No matter what the punishment is, the problem is personal responsibility," she said.

Meanwhile, Bostick?s co-workers and friends have assumed another kind of personal responsibility.

Since Bostick?s death, Porter said other students in the lab have taken on his giving attitude.

"It?s kind of become, 'What would McNair do??" she said.

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