Stephen C. Fowler was a father, a husband, and a scientist. He died on June 15, 2020 at his home.
Steve was born August 28, 1944 in Peoria, Illinois. He was the son of Larry Fowler and Dorothy Fowler (née Glass). He spent his childhood in Somerville, Tennessee and Huntsville, Alabama.
By nature and profession, Steve was a scientist. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Alabama with degrees in Math and Physics, he obtained a PhD in Experimental Psychology from Princeton and became a professor at the University of Mississippi in 1973. At Mississippi, he served as the chair of his department and was named the Barnard Distinguished Professor—a professorship awarded to faculty who show particular excellence in teaching and research. In 1994, Steve accepted a position at the University of Kansas, where he served as a Professor of Human Development until 2000 and then a Professor in Pharmacology/Toxicology until his retirement in 2016. He was a Senior Scientist with the Life Span Institute and anchored their behavioral neuroscience research program during the 1990s and 2000s. He was an integral member of the Kansas Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center. While at KU, Steve also served as the president of Division 28 (Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse) of the American Psychological Association.
Steve was internationally known for his work in behavioral pharmacology. His inventions in quantitative methods permanently transformed the field. Using his extensive knowledge in mathematics and physics, he developed instrumentation to quantify behavior in preclinical research. The measurement devices he created allowed for detection and quantification of previously undetectable or unquantifiable phenomena, such as low-amplitude tremor and rapid muscle movements. He invented the Force Plate Actimeter that is marketed by Bioanalytical Systems. His laboratory and collaborating laboratories have used this instrument for research on rodent models of Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, ALS, ADHD, essential tremor, schizophrenia, Krabbe’s disease, autism, and fragile X syndrome. Steve was an authority on the motor side effects of antipsychotic drugs, but collaborators enlisted him to help with a wide range of research topics. Steve’s research resulted in over 160 publications in high impact journals like Science, Cell, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Steve dedicated his life to research and to educating the next generation of scientists. He mentored more than 40 successful doctoral students and a number of junior faculty. He was a firm believer and a strong practitioner of promoting diversity and inclusion. His students came from all over the world, and he treated all of them like members of his own family.
Steve had a brilliant scientific mind and an encyclopedic knowledge of his own field and many others, but what people will likely remember most about Steve is his personality. He was understated in manner, soft-spoken, generous and gracious with his time and energy, honest and open, and immensely kind.
Beyond science, Steve had many interests. In particular, Steve was an avid hiker, kayaker, and outdoorsman. Before his daughter was born, he regularly camped in the Arctic wilderness. He and a close friend used to take a plane that could only hold 3 people to be dropped off in the wilderness above the Arctic Circle where they camped for weeks.
In his personal life, Steve was married to Doreen Fowler. They loved each other deeply and were together for over 40 years. Steve and Doreen have one child, a daughter, named Carina. Doreen and Carina survive Steve. He is also survived by a younger sister, Michelle.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be directed to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Please make donations in loving memory of Dr. Stephen C. Fowler.
Due to COVID-19, the family will have a private memorial service. Community members may pay their respects to Dr. Fowler at 4:30 PM Saturday, June 27, 2020 in the outdoor space at the Cider Gallery, 810 Pennsylvania St, Lawrence, KS. Please wear a mask and keep 6 feet distance.
Messages & Condolences
Doreen and Carina,
I am so sorry for your loss. Steve was a wonderful mentor to me and a great human being. I am so fortunate to have known him and to have learned so much from him. The world was a better place with him in it. He will be greatly missed.
Dear Carina, We are very sorry by the loss of your dad that you and your mom and family have encountered. Please accept our condolences. We are thinking of you and your family in this difficult time.
I first met Dr. Fowler when his daughter Carina was a preschool student at Century School and I was her teacher. Several years later it was a profound honor to have him sit on the committee for my Master’s Defense. He was undeniably one of the most brilliant people I have ever had to fortune of meeting. But I will always be warmed by the memory of his whit and kindness. My deepest sympathies for Doreen and Carina.
Dear Dr Fowler , a brilliant scientist , a true trailblazer in the area of behavioral pharmacology research . I am so glad I got to see you again last year when I visited KU pharmacology and toxicity department . I will forever be grateful that he saw potential in me (even with my very poor English back then ) and game me a chance of a lifetime by accepting me as his graduate student back in 2002 ! I learned so much from you will miss you
Dear Doreen and Carina,
We’re so sorry about Steve–it’s been a long struggle for all of you. Like you, we remember Steve in his prime. His insight and acumen were really quite special. Our thoughts are with you. And Steve lives on in our memories. We’ll be making a donation to the Michael J. Fox Parkinson’s Foundation.
David, Beth, and Daniel
Doreen and Carina, I was a teacher at Century School and used to babysit Carina as a young child. I always remember your family and Steve as being very kind. I was sorry to see that he has passed away. I am thinking of both of you….Liv Emberland Frost
Very dear Doreen and Carina,
I send love to you both. The obit told me much about Steve that I didn’t know, and I’m very impressed. I remember him as a gracious host at dinner parties in Oxford, and a sharp mind in conversations.
Dear Doreen and Carina. Deep sympathy and sorrow from your many Oxford friends, despite the distance and years apart.
Doreen and Carina, my heart aches for you. Sending love and sympathy — you are very much in my thoughts and prayers.
Carina, my thoughts are with you during this extremely difficult and heart breaking time.
Dr. Fowler was a stellar father, husband, scientist, mentor, and friend. His passion for learning, knowledge, research, and teaching was passed on to his brilliant daughter, Carina.
Sending all my love to Carina and Doreen.
May his memory be a blessing.
It is so shockingly heartbreaking to hear the sad news about Steve. No words can express the deep sorrow I am feeling. We have lost a most wonderful human being, a devoted husband, a loving father, a great mentor, an inspiring friend, a respected colleague, and an extraordinary scientist.
I still remember the first time I met Steve, which was almost 25 years ago, and the following more than five years of daily contact as a PhD student of his at KU. Everything was so vivid as if it just happened yesterday. I cannot believe he has left us. I have been so lucky to have Steve as my advisor. He was incredibly generous, thoughtful, and encouraging. He was always positive with a great sense of humor. He treated his students with selfless love and protected us as if we were his own family members.
Steve was widely recognized as a prominent world leader in psychopharmacology research and had made numerous original contributions. His inventions in quantitative methods permanently transformed the field. Steve was extremely passionate about everything he did, hardworking, and innovative. He dedicated his entire life to inventive research and educating the next-generation scientists. Steve was also a firm believer and a strong practitioner of promoting diversity and inclusion. His students came from all over the world and he treated each and every one of them equally and with respect.
Steve was an excellent role model for all of us and will always be. He will forever live in our hearts and be remembered as a most wonderful human being, a devoted husband, a loving father, a great mentor, an inspiring friend, a respected colleague, and an extraordinary scientist.
He was a superb colleague, collaborator, and friend. My NIDA grant to study the process of behavioral tolerance was possible because of his novel approaches for assessing operant performance. My heart goes out to Doreen and Carina.
A memory: Once, on a canoe trip through the Sipsey Wilderness with Steve and Doreen, we stopped for lunch, and Steve took an apple from Doreen, sliced it with his pocket knife , and gave it back to her. As a very young (20-something) feminist, I judged that act harshly. Steve, I thought, was treating Doreen like a child. She could surely slice her own apple! Years later, that memory carries a different meaning for me and makes me smile. Steve Fowler was not sentimental; both his personal and professional lives were grounded in the epistemology of science. …But there were distinctly tender impulses that were just so difficult for a scientist to express! For me, today, this little memory holds Steve in my heart more than all my memories of research presentations and scientific contributions. I wish we could have another canoe trip together.
Steve was a fantastic scientist, a generous, thoughtful colleague and an excellent human being. I feel very privileged to have worked in the same department with him. It was humbling to see how well he was able to integrate concepts and how quickly he was always able to separate separate wheat from chaff. With deepest sympathy
I had the great good fortune being Steve’s mentee at Ole Miss in 1980’s. He was a gifted mentor who led me into psychopharmacology and behavioral neuroscience; and later when I returned to Taiwan, he continuously guided me with those need to learn in academia by generously sharing me with his knowledge and experience in scientific research. For many years, I always expected to meet Steve in SfN annual conference and enjoyed exchanging research ideas and talking family issues with him. With his decency and kindness, Steve deeply influenced me on the career of becoming a professor that I am very grateful. I already miss him terribly. My heart goes out to Doreen and Carina at this difficult time.
So sorry to hear about Steve. I didn’t know him well but appreciated his wisdom and advice about grant review when I saw him at BPS meetings, and his careful, meticulous research examining force requirements. Deepest condolences for your loss.
In the late 80s at Ole Miss I had the very good fortune of having two PhD mentors, Tom Lombardo and Steve. He taught me so much about the love of science, of Psychology, and the joy of discovery. We kept in sporadic content until a few years ago. I think of Steve often and am indebted to him. I hope Doreen and Carina take solace in how much Steve lives on in the memory of so many folks he touched.
Very, very sad to learn of Steve’s passing. I was very nervous when I joined the faculty at Ole Miss in 1978 because the University was a bastion of ignorance and intolerance. But the psych dept, and Steve were an island of sanity and enjoyment. Steve was a great scientist and human being, so I was happy for he and Doreen to move to a better environment at Kansas. With Doreen and others I actually liked working in Oxford, but living with Marsha and my child in Memphis was a step up. I got to meet you, Carina, only once, and am so sorry you lost a a great dad and wonderful human being. Doreen, I know you will carry on, and let me know if I can do anything to ease your transition
I knew Steve from having him as a mentor for my five years of graduate work in his early days at the Univ. of Mississippi. He was an unbelievably brilliant and dedicated (ok, I recall there being a rule that he was not allowed to be in the office/lab on Sunday nights) scientist. His mentoring and teaching totally altered my life course and let me form a career that had the somewhat rare combination of clinical psychology and psychopharmacology. I want to send my deepest sympathies to Doreen and Carina. He will live on from both a brilliant career of scientific contributions and life changing mentoring and teaching for every student he ever encountered. He was as good as they get and will be much missed.
Steve was one of the true scientists that you rarely see these days. He was also an extraordinary human being with humanity. I stayed in his lab at Kansas for 6 years getting a master and a PhD. He was a true role model with incredible work ethics and huge passion for science. He had helped me every step of my career. Rest in peace Steve. I share your pain Doreen and Carina.
Steve was a wonderful colleague admired not only for his contributions to science and our profession, but for his humanity. While I never worked directly with Steve one could not miss the enthusiasm and affection for him of those who did. My sincere condolences for your loss.
Steve was a wonderful colleague and mentor. I met Steve when I came to KUMC as a brand new assistant professor. My collaborations with him, as well as since astute insights and advice, really helped me get my research established. He was very kind and generous with his time. This is a great loss for me personally and professionally. My thoughts are with his family.
Steve was a wonderful colleague. A favorite memory is talking about research while walking across the Boston Public Garden – likely during a BPS meeting, He will be missed.
My sincere condolences. Steve made significant contributions to the analysis of behavior by applying rigorous technique and engineering standards. I always learned a great deal when talking with him.
Words seem futile to touch grieving for Steve. My heart breaks for Doreen and Carina as they walk the abyss of loss with the suffering inconsolable agony of his death. Steve, what a mentor he was to me in graduate school! And afterward, such a warm substantial companion sharing backpacking adventures in Alaska most especially in the vast, remote wilderness of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the Brooks Range, a place he loved. How much he enjoyed walking in the trailless, untouched beauty of the Arctic mountains and alpine tundra in constant daylight, watching in wonder at herds of caribou, moose, bears, Dall sheep, immense open vistas, and the changing nuances of Arctic light and color.
Steve was such a hero to me. A wonderful scientist, and a real gentleman. It’s incredible that his brilliant mind wasn’t even his most noticeable quality – it was overshadowed by his kindness and decency. I so admire him.
Steve Fowler was an exceptional friend, colleague, pharmacologist, and scientist. Steve made several contributions to improve our understanding of the dopaminergic system in determining behavior and decision making. Steve developed software and created hardware to measure effort in choice situations. He was an influential scientist and mentor to me in the 5 years that I spent at the University of Mississippi. Steve’s ideas and support made possible my research at Ole Miss. He was a great human being, husband, and father. My sincere condolences to Doreen and Carina. We love you Steve, you will be always in our thoughts and heart.
I admired Steve not only as a scientist but also as a thoughtful, knowledgeable, smart, and an honest person. While he was at the lab, I liked to stop by his office and have a good conversation with him on any topic of the day. He was never too busy to discuss things and I will always remember his support and help . Steve will be remembered and missed not only by me but by everyone who knew him.
Dear Doreen and Carina, my condolences and thoughts are with you. May you encounter no more sorrow and stay strong.
I’m so sorry to hear about Steve’s passing. My condolences to his family. Like almost everybody else who knew him I admired him a great deal. If Steve didn’t have the tools to collect the data he wanted to collect, he built them. That’s what kind of scientist and person he was.
I was so saddened to hear of Steve’s passing. His fabulous attributes as a scientist were only surpassed by his warmth, his congeniality, his wonderful smile. Steve and Doreen spent a sabbatical year in Santa Barbara back in the 1980s and it remains one of the highlights of my research career. He and I kept in touch over the years and we always made a point of getting together each year at the Neuroscience conference. He will be missed by so many of us and I extend my sincerest condolences to Doreen and Carina at this difficult time.
What a loss. One of my favorite Steve Fowler memories was knowing what book I would read next. He had just read it and told me about it with great seriousness and enthusiasm. A natural mentor.
Steve was a great scientist, and a truly wonderful colleague. Through the years, I have loved following his work, and have enjoyed so many great conversations at meetings, dinners, etc. He could talk about so many subjects in addition to science, including history, politics, culture. I will always remember him, his sharp mind, his kind manner, and his thoughtful demeanor. My condolences to his family.
I am shocked and heartbroken to hear about Steve’s passing. He was a great scientist and a wonderful human being, and I was truly blessed to know him and have him as a mentor. I will miss him dearly.
Doreen and Carina, my thoughts are with you, and I really hope you can find some peace during this painful time.
Our friendship and my respect for Steve’s personal attributes and scientific accomplishments span decades. I am sure we are all saddened by our collective loss.
Steve was an influential mentor to me in the 5 years I spent at the University of Kansas. He had a way of cutting to the most important element of an experiment, and a research line. He had an insatiable appetite for scientific inquiry. I attempted to model Steve’s ways, but there was only one Steve Fowler, and he will be missed.
So sorry for your loss, Carina. Thinking of you and your family during this difficult time.
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