by Julia Arnold-Hess
September through April, after school, during breaks and weekends, Tom Bogen can be found on the Saint Ignatius High School campus, guiding students as they prepare for the Science Olympiad. His under-the-radar, steady presence serves as a model for students as they learn the value of a consistent work ethic.
The third-floor workroom in the Clavius Science Building is an out-of-the-way spot, invisible to many on campus. Yet this is where the Science Olympians gather to hash out ideas, preparing for competition away from the public eye. Even Bogen admits that it takes a certain kind of person to labor with little recognition.
“There’s really no glory in it,” says Bogen.” Saint Ignatius is usually not a top finisher, due to the high number of nationally-ranked teams in Ohio. We try to finish in the top ten.”
Nevertheless, the 20 to 30 students involved in the Science Olympiad are passionate, and Bogen is beside them every step of the way.
“We’re there every day after school, and kids make their own practice schedules,” says Bogen. It’s hard to practice at night, he adds, since Ignatius students live in different cities throughout the area.
Students like junior Caleb Palagyi notice – and appreciate – Bogen’s commitment.
“Mr. Bogen’s dedication has helped maintain a strong team and alumni base. Many freshmen join the team without ever hearing of the program and will graduate from Saint Ignatius remembering Science Olympiad as one of the most fun and challenging parts of their high school careers,” says Palagyi.
Bogen developed the first Saint Ignatius Science Olympiad team shortly after he was hired in 1998. There are now enough participants for two teams of 15. “This is the first year we’ve had a second full team,” he says.
Bogen enjoys moderating the team, and is active in organizing regional events. He was in charge of running the regional tournament for the first time in 2017 - no small task, according to retired science teacher and Science Olympiad assistant Bob Ward ’65.
“Organizing people to prepare the 23 events, making sure enough volunteers are ready to help, and making sure sufficient school facilities are reserved and properly set up requires perfect attention to details. Tom pulled it off just as well if not better than any of the Regionals I have ever attended,” says Ward.
Bogen also organizes the Saint Ignatius Science Invitational, an annual science competition for middle school students held at Saint Ignatius each November. He also teaches freshman Biology, coaches JV golf, and volunteers once a month with L’Arche.
A Columbus native, Bogen majored in Biology at the University of Notre Dame. He spent 18 months after graduation volunteering in rural Tennessee. One day a week, he taught science to children in a school run by the Sisters of Holy Cross; the other days were spent working in a medical clinic, discerning a possible career in medicine.
“It was baptism by fire, but I enjoyed the challenge of bringing science to students with various learning issues,” says Bogen. “Shortly after I left Tennessee, I entered a Master’s program in education at The Ohio State University instead of pursuing a career in medicine.”
After earning his Master’s degree, Bogen was hired by a co-ed, private middle school in Potomac, Maryland, where he taught for seven years. He met his wife, Paula Fitzgerald, at a friend’s wedding, and they eventually relocated to Northeast Ohio.
Students like Palagyi are grateful that Bogen landed at Saint Ignatius. He has become more than just an advisor – he has a profound effect on his students.
“Mr. Bogen is a very father-like coach. He cares greatly about the team members and the team members care about him, too” says Palagyi.
Bogen is also well-respected among his colleagues in the Dcience department.
“In the classroom, Tom is always innovating," says science teacher Guy Savastano. "He will not hesitate to try something new if he thinks it will benefit his students. As a colleague, I can always turn to him for sage advice or as an invaluable source of lesson ideas and plans."