"I use him all the time as a motivational figure, someone who's up against incredible odds and accomplishes great things," Gotshalk, 33, said of Hawking, 44, who is best known for his research into black holes and is now trying to produce a unified field theory - a task that has thus far defeated minds as formidable as Albert Einstein's.
It was Gotshalk's admiration for Hawking, and his curiosity about the Cambridge University scientist's debilitating disease, that prompted him to carry out today's "lift-a-thon" benefiting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis research.
Beginning at noon today, the 215-pound Gotshalk, along with graduate assistant Dave Murphy, will lift 275 pounds from the floor of the Temple weight room to his chest 12 times every five minutes. If they're able to keep this up for 24 hours, they will break the 700,000-pound record for continuous ''deadlifting" as cited in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Donations are being sought, both on campus and off, for each 10,000 pounds Gotshalk and Murphy lift.
"It's amazing that there isn't more being done to raise money to fight this thing," Goltshalk said, referring to the disease that has claimed such notables as Gehrig, jazz great Charles Mingus, Villanova's basketball trainer Jake Nevin and longtime New York Sen. Jacob Javits.
Gotshalk's interest in quantum physics is a largely extracurricular one, but he believes that if he ever met Hawking, they would find a lot to talk about.
"We're both interested in the density of mass," Gotshalk said yesterday.
More to the point, "I know what it's like to be handicapped. I'm epileptic, dyslexic. I can type faster than I read. I know there's a bigotry against people who, on the surface, are unable to function yet, like Stephen Hawking, have these incredible gifts."
HELP CARRY THE LOAD
People wishing to make donations to today's "lift-a-thon" at Temple University to benefit research into Lou Gehrig's disease should call 787-1006. Contributions can be made for each 10,000 pounds lifted by Linc Gotshalk, Temple University's strength and weightlifting coach, and Dave Murphy, a graduate assistant.