Stephen C. Fowler

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.