WHOI Waypoints: New Fellowship Honors Art Maxwell


“As a tribute to my dear friend and longtime mentor,” WHOI Corporation Member Jamie Austin has established a graduate student fellowship in honor of Art Maxwell, former Provost and Director of Research at WHOI.
The Arthur E. Maxwell Graduate Student Fellowship will provide annual support (tuition and a stipend) for first-year graduate students in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science and Engineering. The fellowship is intended to support students pursuing interdisciplinary work. It was initiated with a $100,000 donation from Austin, and a similar fellowship has been established at the University of Texas at Austin, where Maxwell and Austin are members of the faculty.

In 1965, Maxwell left the Office of Naval Research to become Associate Director of WHOI. In 1968, he served as Co-Chief Scientist on the Deep  Sea Drilling Project’s third expedition, which gathered some of the first direct geologic evidence in support of the concepts of seafloor spreading and plate tectonics. He was active in the development of scientific ocean drilling through participation in Project Mohole, the Ocean Margin Dril-ling Program, and the Ocean Drilling Program. He was an early advocate for long-term government support of submersible research using both Trieste and Alvin.

In later years, Maxwell served as WHOI’s Director of Research and as Provost, playing instrumental roles in the development of the MIT/WHOI Joint Program and in bringing the East Coast marine group of the US Geological Survey to the Quissett Campus. Austin notes, “Art Maxwell and [WHOI’s fourth Director] Paul Fye epitomized the kind of wise, committed leadership that has helped make the Institution the world’s leading center of oceanographic research and graduate training.”

In 1982, Maxwell left Woods Hole to become the first Director of the Institute for Geophysics at UT-Austin, where Jamie Austin had taken a position as a Research Scientist. “I helped Art learn about Texas while he continued to teach me about capable leadership,” Austin recalls. Maxwell led the Institute until his retirement in 1994. He remains on the faculty as an emeritus professor in the Department of Geological Sciences.

“I wanted to remind people at WHOI that Art played an important role for 17 years in a key period of growth for the Institution,” says Austin, President of the MIT/WHOI Joint Program Alumni/ae Association. “He was one of the founding fathers of the business.” Austin hopes “to bridge the generations of scientists” with this fellowship and intends that fellows should meet the man who was “one of the formative influences in my life.”

Austin is currently a Senior Research Scientist at the UT-Austin Institute for Geophysics. He grew up in New York and on Martha’s Vineyard, and still keeps a seasonal home on the island. He was a Joint Program student in Geology & Geophysics from 1973 to 1978 and still frequently uses WHOI ships for his research.