by Kevin Dicciani
Edward McIlvaine was driving home from a concert in Maine on U.S. Route 302 when he fell asleep at the wheel and his car collided head-on with a cement truck. Three friends traveling with him and the truck driver all survived, but Edward did not. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash on Aug. 16, 2004. He was 28-years old.
Ten years later, Edward’s spirit lives on through his family and friends. His mother, Susan, his brother Lee and his friends have spent the last 10 years preserving and honoring his legacy and love of adventure. Together they established the Edward McIlvaine Scholarship at Philadelphia Outward Bound, which rewards a male student at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy with a two-week Outward Bound Youth Leadership Course.
Edward’s love of adventure began when he was 13 years-old. He went on a sailing trip with his sixth- grade class at what was then Chestnut Hill Academy. Along with 40 students and a teacher, four students to each boat, Edward sailed the Chesapeake Bay and spent four days and three nights on the water. The trip would be a defining moment in Edward’s life, cementing his lifelong love of the sea. Not long after, he became a certified sailing instructor in Maine during the summer. It was his first paid job.
His love of the sea continued through high school. When he was going into his senior year at CHA, a teacher recommended that Edward look into one of Outward Bound’s outdoor courses. Through Hurricane Island Outward Bound, he found a summer leadership course in Hurricane Island, Maine, where for 14 days he and others sailed and performed other activities designed to build leadership skills and strengthen them both physically and mentally.
“He had a strong love of the outdoors,” Lee said. “I think that experience really solidified his desire to live and work in an outdoor environment. He was always a people person and very outgoing, so I think that opportunity to work with others in that kind of environment stuck with him throughout his life.”
For his senior project at CHA, Edward worked again with Hurricane Island Outward Bound and spent a month in Rockland, Maine, sailing, hiking and learning the ins and outs of survival and the sea. He then worked as a volunteer in logistics for Outward Bound, working in warehouses, outfitting crews and maintaining boats.
After graduating from CHA in 1995, Edward attended New England College. Realizing that it wasn’t for him, Edward left the school after a year and went to the Caribbean. There, he worked and sailed, strengthening his bond with the outdoors and the sea.
“He was, without a doubt, an adventurer, someone who loved the outdoors, someone who loved Maine, and someone who loved sailing,” Susan said.
“He always took his own route,” Lee said. “And whatever route he’d take, it was always amazing to watch him come out of it and land on his feet.”
When he returned from the Caribbean, Edward started taking courses at the Northeast Maritime Institute in Fairhaven, Mass. He was certified as an able seaman and a 100-ton ship captain, receiving numerous certifications for courses like Marine Firefighting, Personal Survival Techniques, among others. Afterwards, he sailed tall ships up and down the East Coast, sailing on ships like the HMS Rose and the Gazela.
From 2000 to 2003, Edward worked for the Military Sealift Command, a Navy operation in charge of transportation and supply replenishment. During his stint on the USS Sirus, Edward did two nine-month tours of the Persian Gulf, supplying food, aid and other cargo to the military. It was during this time that he got a chance to see the world, traveling to Israel, Sicily, Spain, Dubai and Malta.
Around this same time, Edward became the logistics coordinator and an instructor at Philadelphia Outward Bound. He traveled to places like Baltimore, Boston and West Virginia, and was certified as a wilderness medic.
Katie Newsom Pastuszek, executive director at Philadelphia Outward Bound, hired Edward, and remembers what he was like as a person.
“Ed was one of the most sensitive and thoughtful and bright individuals who I’ve ever worked with,” Pastuszek said. “He was so perceptive and so in-touch with what the students were thinking and feeling. He brought out great qualities in every person he worked and came in contact with.
“He was so incredibly well-read. He could quote poetry and Moby Dick and classic works of literature about the sea when he was working with students. He was an amazing person.”
Pastuszek worked with Susan and Lee to form the Edward McIlvaine Scholarship at Philadelphia Outward Bound. After all of their time spent together, Pastuszek considers Susan, Lee, his wife, Charlotte, and his daughter, Noel, a part of the Philadelphia Outward Bound family.
Susan said they wanted the scholarship to involve Outward Bound and SCH because they were two important parts of Edward’s life. She said that they wanted to give the scholarship to an SCH student who hasn’t quite realized the leadership potential that they have.
“Our hope is to help them become that leader,” she said.
In tandem with Edward’s scholarship fund, Philadelphia Outward Bound is hosting its signature fundraising event, “Building Adventure,” for the third year in a row on Oct. 24. The event, Pastuszek said, mirrors the objectives of Outward Bound’s mission within the community. The event allows participants to raise money for non-profit organizations by rappelling down an office building. In order to qualify to rappel, one must raise a minimum of $2,000.
So far Lee has raised more than $4,000. He will be rappelling down the side of the One Logan Square building in Center City Philadelphia while his family and friends watch. All of the money raised will be put into the Edward McIlvaine Scholarship fund, which Lee said he is happy and proud to see impacting students in a positive way, even if it means he needs to rappel down a building.
“It should be fun,” Lee said. “Edward was always looking for the adventure, the fun, and the sharing of the experience – and this should be an experience.”