By Jamie Austin
Arthur E. (Art) Maxwell had one of the most distinguished careers in administration in the history of the ocean sciences in the U.S. He served in the U.S. Navy during part of WWII, after receiving an undergraduate degree from New Mexico Tech. He received a graduate degree from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, advised by the legendary Roger Revelle. Following his time in La Jolla, Art served for a number of years as a program manager with the Office of Naval Research, during a period in the 1950s-1960s when the Navy was as important a part of the funding of academic ocean sciences research as the National Science Foundation.
Art was hired in the 1960s to be the provost of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), serving as primary assistant to the legendary WHOI director Paul Fye. WHOI was then and remains today the largest private oceanographic research organization in the world. During that period, he served in a number of other prominent advisory roles, including as President of the American Geophysical Union (1976-1978). He was also Co-Chief Scientist of Leg 3 of the Deep-Sea Drilling Project (1968-1969), which will always be famous as the expedition which verified the theory of plate tectonics by providing the first unequivocal proof of the existence of seafloor spreading in the South Atlantic.
In 1982 Art put his considerable managerial expertise to work as the director of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG). At that time, UTIG was located in Galveston, TX, far from the main campus in Austin. Under Art’s leadership, the Institute was moved to Austin, and over the next decade became one of the U.S.’s leading marine geological and geophysical research laboratories. Art stayed on in that capacity until 1994, when he handed the role to Paul Stoffa, who Art had hired in the mid-1980s.
Since 1994, Art lived out the remainder of his life in comfortable retirement with his wife Colleen, both in Austin and in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He will always be fondly remembered by his colleagues and friends for his leadership, his humanism, and his love of the ocean sciences.
Art passed away in Austin on August 21, 2019. He was 94 years old.
Read more: Art’s colleagues and friends are collecting memories of their time with UTIG’s former director.