Employee Portrait Gallery—Freddy Valois

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Freddy Valois was photographed ashore in 1992 at Stan Watson’s transmission electron microscope, an instrument used to study the internal structure of marine bacteria and viruses. Freddy also spent a total of nearly a year at sea during 23 research voyages aboard WHOI ships as well as those from other institutions. 

 

 

When Freddy Valois presented her credentials to WHOI microbiologist Stanley Watson in the summer of 1962, he said he’d love to hire her, but had no money. He must, however, have been impressed with her Mount Holyoke College degree in botany and chemistry (1953) and several years’ experience in a Harvard Medical School lab: a week later he hailed her on Water Street, shouting, “I’ve got money!” Freddy went to work that afternoon, beginning a collaboration at WHOI and at Associates of Cape Cod that lasted until Stanley’s death in 1995. “Freddy’s contribution to Stan’s work cannot be underestimated,” said John Waterbury, one of Watson’s protégés. “She moves like a rocket—very efficient and organized. Stan would have more ideas in half an hour than most people have all year, and Freddy would figure out which ideas were doable, and rally everyone around to figure out how to get things done.” Another colleague commented, “Stan was good at getting himself into trouble, and Freddy was good at getting him out of it—or keeping trouble from escalating.  She was not only a valued friend and colleague to Stanley but a mentor to many in the biology department.”

Freddy says that she is especially proud of participating in Waterbury and Watson’s 1977 landmark discovery of the cyanobacterium Synechococcus, which turned out to be a major oceanic primary producer and one of the most numerous genomes on the planet. Outside the lab, she was a member of the first WHOI Women’s Committee appointed by Director Paul Fye in 1973. Freddy was also a member of the team that later helped to benchmark job descriptions for biology and chemistry lab assistants, which resulted in upgrades for many individuals. Her contributions to WHOI life were recognized with the 1995 Linda Morse Porteous Award for qualities including leadership, dedication, and mentoring.

Before Stan Watson formed the biotechnology firm Associates of Cape Cod to produce a toxin-detecting substance derived from the blood of horseshoe crabs, Freddy participated in the early development of the product at WHOI. She later became one of the company’s board members and helped oversee its growth from a small operation in Watson’s home to a thriving enterprise (and eventually a WHOI benefactor).

Though she officially retired in 1995, Freddy volunteers three or four days a week in Waterbury’s lab, and is well known in the community as a fierce tennis player and sailor.

 

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