Naval Academy midshipmen Tony Valliere called his parents last week to say he had been selected to lead a team in an international competition to design a race car.
For a 21- year-old junior who long ago decided that he was better suited for the science lab than the football field, it was an exciting opportunity.
"He's like a physics and math and science wiz," his father, Claude Valliere, recalled yesterday by phone from his home in suburban Chicago. "To him, this was like a great pinnacle."
Valliere, a mechanical engineering major from Palatine, Ill., died Saturday in a motorcycle crash in Montgomery County.
Maryland State Police are investigating the crash, which happened about 1 p.m. on a ramp linking Interstates 270 and 370 in Gaithersburg.
Valliere, operating a 1993 Yamaha, was heading west on I-370 when he lost control of the bike and slammed into a concrete wall, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Speed was believed to be a factor.
The academy observed a moment of silence during Sunday's basketball game.
"The Naval Academy is deeply saddened by this sudden and tragic loss," Vice Adm. Jeffrey L. Fowler, the academy superintendent, said in a statement. "Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to his family."
Anthony J. Valliere, the second of four children, grew up in New York before his family moved to Palatine, outside Chicago, where he was a percussionist in the high school marching band.
At the academy, Valliere was recently selected by fellow engineering majors to lead their team in the Formula SAE competition, in which more than 140 teams from 17 countries compete. The competition is scheduled to culminate in May with a race in Detroit.
The son of a Navy officer, Valliere knew early on he wanted to become a Marine Corps officer.
"I think his desire to serve his country was paramount," said Claude Valliere. " ... It was his obligation, because of the gifts he was given, to take care of others."
A service has not been scheduled.