WHOI  WHOI People  

In Memoriam: Charles D. Hollister

Charles D. Hollister

Media Relations Office

media@whoi.edu

August 25, 1999

(508) 289-3340

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death August 23, 1999 of Charles Davis Hollister, Senior Scientist in the Geology and Geophysics Department and Vice President of the Corporation. He died hiking while on vacation with family members in Wyoming. He was 63 years old.

"Charley had a love for life and enjoyed it to the fullest," Director Robert Gagosian said of his long-time colleague and close friend. "He enjoyed each day, and was not afraid to take risks in whatever he pursued, knowing the rewards success would bring and the lessons failure would teach. As a scientist he pioneered the field of deep-sea sediment dynamics and made us look at mud on the deep sea floor in a different way. He challenged our thinking about the role of the oceans in the management of hazardous wastes, and taught us all to approach problems as challenges that deserved our best efforts. As Dean of the Graduate Program for a decade he inspired a generation of students to enjoy research and exploration, hopefully half as much as he did. In recent years his passion and commitment to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution led him down new paths as Vice President of the Corporation. He was intent on helping us raise funds to secure the future of this Institution, and he opened many doors we would never have found. His good nature, love of people, passion for life, and dedication and commitment not only to this Institution but to the entire field of oceanography will be deeply missed."

Charles Davis Hollister was born March 18, 1936 in Santa Barbara, California. He received his B.S. degree from Oregon State University in 1960 and his Ph.D. degree in geology in 1967 from Columbia University. His dissertation, entitled "Sediment Distribution and Deep Circulation in the Western North Atlantic," reflected his life-long interest in the deep sea floor and initiated a subfield of geology now called sediment dynamics. He worked as an oceanographer at the United States Geological Survey in 1961, and while in graduate school was a Ford Foundation Fellow in oceanography from 1962 to 1963 and a research assistant at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory. During his years at Lamont he worked closely with his advisor, Bruce Heezen, co-authoring many publications with Heezen including the well-known book "Faces of the Deep," published in 1971. He was the author of more than 90 scientific papers and six books.

Charley’s long relationship with WHOI began in 1967 when he joined the WHOI staff as an assistant scientist in the Geology and Geophysics Department, then headed by K.O. Emery. He was promoted to Associate Scientist in 1971 and to Senior Scientist in 1979. Charley pursued his interest in educating the next generation of oceanographers in 1979 when he was appointed the fourth Dean of Graduate Studies, a position he held for ten years. In 1989, he began a new chapter in his WHOI life with his appointment as Vice President of the Corporation, helping the Institution raise funds, working more closely with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's governing board, and developing new friends and supporters around the country.

His research interests took him around the world. Charley sailed on more than 27 research cruises, 21 as chief scientist, and he spent months under the sea on research and nuclear submarines in the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and Antarctic Oceans. Considered by many the father of subseabed disposal, he spent many years of his career studying the deep sea floor and its potential for handling hazardous wastes.

An expert in the dynamics of sediment transport, Charley Hollister was among the first oceanographers to realize that large areas of the deep sea floor, a region long thought to be tranquil, are swept by strong currents or benthic storms. He documented the existence of these storms and measured their strong currents during the High Energy Benthic Boundary Layer Experiment, a program he organized, in the 1970s. Charley also started the development of a giant piston coring system that pushed the boundaries of seafloor sampling. A 100-foot long core he took in the 1970s dubbed "Super Straw" documented the longest continuous record, 65 million years, of ocean basin history.

A world-renowned marine geologist, Charley was also an avid mountain climber, a hunter and fly fisherman, and an alpine/cross-country skier. He began his long interest in climbing high mountains early in life, climbing Mount Rainier in Washington while serving in the Army. While in college he tackled the Cascades and Sierras, and moved on to other high peaks in North America and around the world. In 1962 Charley participated in the first ascent of the southeast side of Mount McKinley in a month-long expedition, featured in Lookmagazine and The New York Times. He made the first ascent of Antarctica’s highest peak, Vinson Massif, as part of the first mountaineering expedition to Antarctica’s Sentinel Range, climbing five of the range’s six highest peaks and earning the John Oliver La Gorce Medal from the National Geographic Society for "contributions to science and exploration through the first ascent of Antarctica’s highest mountains." Chief Justice of the United States, Earl Warren, presented the medal to the 10-member American Antarctic Expedition at Constitution Hall on March 31, 1967.

"Charley Hollister was our chief humorist," long-time friend and fellow expedition member Samuel Silverstein and a colleague wrote in the book The Mountain World published in 1966/1967. "Whether cooking steaks in the mess tent, riding oil drums like a cowboy, or impishly suggesting that those extra delicacies be given to ‘someone more deserving’ — like himself — Charley’s infectious smile endeared him to us all."

Charley later climbed peaks in Europe and Asia, including the Himalayas, and was one of the first Americans to trek in Bhutan. He served as President of the American Alpine Club, and spent much of his leisure time enjoying the outdoors.

"Ocean research is a lot like climbing a new route to the top of a mountain," he once said about two of his passions. "Every time you go out to sea there’s something new. I enjoy that aspect of both — the unpredictability of the mountains and the bottom of the sea. Besides, neither place is very crowded."

His love for the outdoors began early in life. Charley grew up in Santa Barbara, California on the family ranch, which once covered 40,000 acres and was one of the largest cattle ranches in the state. His family roots went back many generations to the 1640s, when the first Hollisters arrived in America from South Glastonbury, England and founded the Connecticut town bearing the same name. A century later, they began moving west to Ohio, and then in the 1800s drove sheep onward to California where they established the Hollister Ranch and a community bearing the family name. Charley returned to the ranch frequently through the years to enjoy riding horses and the outdoors.

He was a member of the American Geophysical Union, the American Alpine Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Bohemian Club, Explorers Club, and Rancheros Vistadores. He was also a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and served as a delegate on the Expert Panel on sea disposal of radioactive wastes for the International Atomic Energy Agency/Intergovernmental Maritime Organization. He participated in the Henry Bryant Bigelow Distinguished Lecture Series at Harvard University and lectured widely in the United States and abroad on a number of topics including nuclear waste disposal and related societal issues.

Survivors include his wife, Jacqueline (McEnroe), of Falmouth, MA; a daughter, Robin J. Hall, of Marshfield, MA; a son, David Hollister, of Seattle, WA; a son-in-law, Stuart Hall, of Marshfield, MA; a stepson, Andrew Suitor, of Falmouth, MA; two granddaughters, Alicia and Andrea Hall, of Marshfield, MA; three brothers, Lincoln S. Hollister of Princeton, NJ, David O. Hollister of Greenville, CA, and C. Doyle Hollister of Santa Barbara, CA; several other relatives and many friends. He is also survived by his former wife, Jalien (Green) Hollister, of Charlestown, MA.

Interment in Santa Barbara, CA, will be private and will be held at a later date. A celebration of life will be held Sunday, August 29, at 2:00 p.m. at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Joseph V. McKee Jr. Ballfield on the Institution’s Quissett Campus. In lieu of flowers, donations in Charles Hollister’s memory may be made to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, c/o Development Office, Fenno House, Woods Hole, MA 02543.

Originally published: August 25, 1999