Gig Harbor Now is posting profiles of each of the 25 Students of Distinction being honored by the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. The students will be honored during a banquet from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at Ocean5, 5268 Point Fosdick Dr.
Student: Alex Morgan
School: Gig Harbor High School
Category: Science & Technology Achievement
Alex Morgan is an AP Capstone Scholar and Scholar with Distinction, a National Merit Commended Scholar and a Washington State Ambassador of Music. He’s an Eagle Scout, plays seven instruments and is headed to a career in astrophysics and music.
Alex has always been mesmerized by the night sky and recently completed project searching the heavens for exoplanets. He and his science teacher Eric Wolgemuth collected light data from stars using information from NASA’s Kepler Mission.
They spent many a winter night with their telescope focused on a specific star, watching for tiny dips in brightness that might indicate the presence of an orbiting planet.
Alex Morgan Contributed
Usually they worked from 8 p.m. until a little after midnight. They even spent a fruitless 12-hour dusk-to-dawn stint trying to collect enough data and photos for Alex to write the required 5,000-word report. They just weren’t having any luck.
Then in late April, Wolgemuth suggested they make one more excursion into the darkness.
“He said it looked like there was going to be good sky that weekend,” Alex recalled. “I really didn’t want to go because I was pretty discouraged about the whole thing.”
But out they went and that night Alex shot more than 600 photos and collected all the data he needed for his report that he’ll send to NASA. The next step will likely be that he’ll be asked to present his data in person.
That project is just one example of the kind of work Alex enjoys doing. It’s also an example of the determination and perseverance he’s needed all through high school to study things he wanted to know about.
“That was probably my biggest challenge in high school,” he said. “It was frustrating to not be able to take the classes I wanted to – like classes in calculus-based physics. They’re just not very common in high school.”
He often had to design independent projects with his teachers or take advanced courses online. The payoff is that he’ll have the equivalent of eight years of math credits when he graduates from GHHS. And it has taught him to advocate for himself, find ways to learn the things he wants to know and “keep learning and growing.”
Through it all, playing and composing music is how Alex relaxes – he calls it his release. He plays seven instruments (several self-taught) including French horn in concert band, piano in the jazz band and trumpet in the wind ensemble. He started on trumpet, then switched to French horn in seventh grade. He also plays trombone and is the founder of Musicians on a Mission, a nonprofit that raises money for music education for others.
He especially loves jazz — Errol Gardner is an inspiration — and classical music (Gershwin and Debussy are favorites). “Debussy’s ‘La Mer’ totally changed my way of listening to music,” he said. And Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was “what started me on piano.”
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He spent much of the COVID shutdown composing “The Pacific,” a piece that’s sort of an homage to La Mer, he said. He spent hundreds of hours learning to score parts for sax, oboe, bassoon and other wind instruments.
“I’m lucky to have good friends in band who play those instruments, so they could help me write those parts,” he said. If all goes according to plan, “The Pacific” will have its premier at the band’s final concert in June.
GHHS math teacher Phyllis Payne calls Alex “…among the most genuinely well-rounded, gifted young men I have had the privilege to have in my class. His incredible work ethic and high aptitude for the subject at hand reinforces his solid background in any class, but particularly in mathematics and physics.
“Besides being honest and dependable, Alex embraces life at every opportunity with a thoughtful, healthy, balanced outlook.”
Eric Wolgemuth agreed. “Alex’s thirst for knowledge is the most profound of any student I’ve ever had,” he said. “He’s a veritable sponge with an astounding thirst for knowledge. He has a world view and is both interested in and interesting to talk with about current affairs, politics, not to mention his favorites in science – especially astronomy. And he is equally well-versed in music.”
Parents: Jackie & Andy Morgan
Achievements / Activities: AP Schoar with Distinction, Capstone Scholar; National Merit Commended Scholar; Seal of Biliteracy – Spanish; Eagle Scout; State Ambasador of Music; went to nationals in debate; Self-taught musician and composer; Ntional Honor Society; Varsity letters in band, speech and debate; PLU Honor Band; President and co-founder – Musicians on a Mission
Favorite teacher: Mr. Wolgemuth: “He cares about the learning process more than anyone. The unique learning experience of independent study with Mr. W. has solidified my love for physics and convinced me that physics is my future.”
Best thing about GHHS: The flexibility and opportunity to carve my own path. The administration is accessible and open to new ideas and truly cares about helping me reach my goals.
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