When Ernie Charette finished his electrical engineering degree in 1972 at the Benjamin Franklin Technical Institute in Boston, he expected to spend his career designing electrical distribution systems for power plants. However, there was a recession and jobs were hard to come by. He thought himself fortunate to land a position in the WHOI electrical shop, working for Gus Carlson. “I’ll stay a couple of years,” he thought—instead he has progressed since then from grade 1 electrician to facilities manager.
He was named electrical shop supervisor in 1980, assistant facilities manager in 1982, and to his present position last fall. Ernie says he especially appreciates the continuing opportunities to learn and to serve at WHOI. During his early years here, designing and installing electrical systems on WHOI ships put him on a steep, but rewarding, learning curve.
He was a major player in getting the Northeast Regional Ion Microprobe Facility for geochemical analysis up and running in 1996, then experienced first the shock of seeing it ruined by the October 2002 fire and now the satisfaction of seeing it almost back in business.
When Ernie received the 2002 Vetlesen Award for exceptional contributions to the WHOI community, part of the citation noted that “some of his most endearing qualities are caring and compassion for his fellow human beings.” They are evident in both Institution-based activities and in his involvement with outside groups. For WHOI, his extracurricular contributions range from organizing the Quissett Campus fitness trail and serving science projects as a diver to assisting with employee capital campaign committee clambakes.
Off the job, among other things, he puts his shoulder to the Special Olympics and Habitat for Humanity, and he serves as a mentor to young men at Barnstable High School through his church.
Originally published: March 1, 2005