Celeste Fowler joined the MIT/WHOI Joint Program (JP) in June 2003 and quickly made her presence felt. She was a “fantastic” engineer in the Deep Submergence Laboratory, said her adviser, Hanu Singh. But she also had “this whole other artistic side to her,” said Anna Michel, a JP student who worked with her. “She always had a lot of energy? She always had her camera and was taking pictures.” She also found time to volunteer to give tours for the WHOI Information Office.
After Fowler was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, her colleagues watched as she confronted her illness with “unbelievable dignity,” Singh said. “Her experience was an education for everybody.” She died eight weeks after her diagnosis, in March 2004.
After she graduated from Princeton with a degree in computer science, Fowler worked for Silicon Valley companies, but all the while indulged her artistic and athletic side: scuba diving, skiing, traveling, and always taking photos. In 2000, she combined her passions for diving and photography, working for SeaPics.com, a stock photo company specializing in marine life.
When JP students expressed a desire to commemorate Fowler, John Farrington, vice president for academic programs at WHOI, suggested a way that would remember her as both scientist and artist—an art show.
Along with some of Fowler’s photos, 16 JP students displayed their paintings, pottery, photography, woodworking, metalwork, drawings, macramé, jewelry, and knitting. Two gave musical performances; one presented a monologue.
“It celebrated the diversity of our students’ talents, beyond the academic,” Farrington said.
The Celeste Fowler Memorial Art Show will now be an annual event.
"It was a beautiful October day," said WHOI scientist Dana Yoerger, "and I was walking to the Blake building, past a field of cosmos. It was filled with Monarch butterflies. So I ran to get my camera, and I said to Celeste, "Quick, grab your camera." Her photographs of the butterflies on the flowers were beautiful. All mine turned out lousy "except for this one." (Dana Yoerger, WHOI)