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Celeste Fowler

Celeste Fowler G, a Joint Program PhD student at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Ocean Engineering, died of metastatic melanoma on March 21, 2004. Fowler was 32 years old.

Fowler was diagnosed with cancer approximately eight weeks before her death, but her parents said she was able to maintain a surprisingly upbeat attitude throughout the early months of 2004. “After Celeste had survived a particularly grueling round of chemotherapy someone cautiously sticking his head in her door was greeted with Mark Twain's line, ‘Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,’” her parents wrote in an obituary they sent to The Daily Star.

To commemorate her life, the Department of Ocean Engineering put up posters of Fowler SCUBA diving, with the words “doing what she loved most” underneath the photo. Fowler was fond of SCUBA diving and photography, and briefly worked for, a company specializing in marine life photos.

Fowler joined the Institute community in June 2003 with long list of accolades to her name. She earned a Cum Laude degree in Computer Science at Princeton University within three years. During and after Princeton, Fowler worked in computer graphics for a number of top companies, including Microsoft, Silicon Graphics, AvantGo, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She joined the Institute as an MIT Presidential Fellow.

Colleagues and professors said that she was able to accomplish much in her short time in the program. Her advisor, Hanumant Singh, described her lab work as “fantastic,” but added “more importantly, she was an awesome personality. She was battling cancer for two months, and she was upbeat through it all.”

Both an artist and an engineer

Joint Program students at WHOI begin the program with a ten day sail in order for the small group of students to get to know each other. Anna P. M. Michel G, another student in the program that year, was one of the many that met Fowler there. “Everyone immediately became quick friends with her,” Michel said.

Michel went on to work with Fowler at WHOI in the Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department. “She always had a lot of energy ... she always had her camera and was taking pictures.” Michel also remarked that Fowler pushed her to obtain her scientific SCUBA diving certification and “really helped” her obtain it.

Michel said that she will remember Fowler for being a great engineer while having “this whole other artistic side to her ... When I go SCUBA diving, all my photographs come out blue. Hers are amazing.”

Hsing said Fowler possessed an “unbelievable dignity,” mentioning that “her experience was an education for everybody.”

A Memorial service will be held this Saturday at Woods Hole at 2 p.m. She is survived by her parents, Dennis and Peggy Fowler.