Whiteley Center 20th Anniversary . 2020

Arthur Whiteley with dear friends and colleagues Mary Rice and Fu-Shiang Chia . Photo by Kathleen Ballard

Whiteley ScholarTributes— Volume 3/3

Volume 3. Contributors (as shown): Sharon Birzer • Sandra Sarr • Ted Goslow • Ilya Shmulevich • Masahia Fujita • Moira Linehan • Suzanne Jill Levine • Patricia Smith • Emily Whitman • Carole Hickman • Paul Nelson • Fred Hamel • Carsten Peters • Martha Silano • Lisa Tubach • Root Gorelick • Penelope Moffet

From Sharon Birzer, Macfarlane Artist in Residence

As I sit on the Eugene N. Kozloff bench perched on a Southeastern facing cliffside, the wind whips up off the sparkling water and brushes past me. The movement of the wind and the Cliff Swallows joyously swooping and diving through the branches of a tree to my left catches my eye. As if this tree was waving hello, my interest is immediately piqued, this was a unique tree with a long and mysterious past! When I came up to (Friday Harbor Labs) I had planned to document and illustrate local lichens, which have been an organism of interest for me. But my focus shifted because of this remarkable Oak tree on the cliffs near the water. I wanted to learn more about this tree and by extension other notable species on the Friday Harbor Lab preserve grounds. I’ve since confirmed that it’s a Garry Oak, a rare type of tree that were part of coastal prairie ecosystems that were cultivated and maintained here because of their useful qualities in the Pacific Northwest coastal lands by the Native people for at least 500 years until about a century ago. My work in progress now focuses on drawing some of the remarkable trees I’ve found here, including the Garry Oak (Quercus garryana,) Seaside Juniper (Juniperus maritima,) Shore Pine (Pinus contorta,) Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii,) and Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) especially the ancient grandfathers standing alone (aka wolf trees.)

Garry Oak leaf study (Quercus garryana), graphite, S. Birzer.

I use graphite, colored pencil, watercolor and pastels as I attempt to capture some of the close-in details, and the habit, beauty and character of these trees. It’s been incredibly inspiring to be able to visit these trees in person while I’ve stayed here, because capturing them on paper is not easily done using photos alone. The peace and quiet, the water and forest that surrounds me here has created a still mind space, from which I’ve enjoyed the surprising and delightful turn my work has taken which has been inspired and enabled by the Macfarlane art fellowship and the Whiteley Center. I am honored and deeply grateful to be able to partake in this unique and valuable experience.

Seaside Juniper branch tip, Whitely Center (Juniperus maritima), colored pencil and graphite, S. Birzer.
Pacific Madrone bud and twig study (Arbutus menziesii), graphite, S. Birzer
Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) at Whiteley Center, graphite, pastel and colored pencil, S. Birzer.

Sandra Sarr

The Whiteley Center is where I came to hear what it was my novel wanted to say. Ten years ago, in 2010, I wrote:

Dear Arthur,

Imagine a place where your only obligation is to think, write, and make something new. Now set that place where others are discovering too. Put it at the edge of a forest and sea, on an island where nature’s creatures let themselves be known to those who notice.

This is the place that you and Helen have made. It is a place of alchemy, where minds burn bright and gold is brought forth.

Just look at the books lining the walls. There lies evidence of the magic, gifts to the world born of your gift of this creative space to artists and scholars. These gifts are the kind that multiply and reach into new generations.

Imagine the lasting impact that you have made and will continue to make on our world, Arthur, on this 10th anniversary of The Helen Riaboff Whiteley Center at Friday Harbor Laboratories.

In this phrontistery—a space for focused study, thought, creativity, and productivity—I have begun my first novel. The first glints of gold are visible. I thank you from the deepest part of my heart for your vision, generosity, and all good things made—and to be made—at the Whiteley Center. In everlasting gratitude, Sandra Sarr

Now, it’s 2020 and, in a case of life imitating art, I’ve moved from the Pacific Northwest to Southern Louisiana, where my novel is set. An interested publisher has asked me to add several thousand words and re-submit.

I imagine returning to the Whiteley Center to finish what I started there. In deep gratitude to the Whiteley Center for providing the space for me to create what may not have otherwise come forth. Joyeux anniversaire!, as we say in Cajun-Creole country.

G.E. Ted Goslow, Jr.

Professor Emeritus.

I engaged in research at the UW Friday Harbor Laboratories for six summers in the late 1980s – early 1990s and three later periods to read, write and think at the Whiteley Center. Without fail each time the ferry from Anacortes pulled into the dock at Friday Harbor and my gaze drifted NE to the laboratories, my heart quickened. I learned early that FHL is all about mentoring students and scholarship at the highest level. Often late at night I walked to and from my living quarters to the library on a path along the water in front of the laboratories. The energy coming from students working late in the labs or on the docks never ceased to remind me of FHL’s prominence as an educational institution.

I met Arthur Whiteley on campus in 2000 as the finishing touches were being put on the Whiteley-Study Building and cottages. After a 20-minute impassioned conversation with Arthur, had I not known of his scientific accomplishments, I would not have been the wiser. Arthur was far more eager to share his vision for the Center and to explain its emergence from the shared belief with his wife, Helen Riaboff Whiteley, that humanity’s best path forward encompasses all creative endeavors from the arts to conservation. To that end Arthur pursued a Center organized to support scholars from widely diverse disciplines.

The cottage my wife and I were provided on that first visit was elegant and with all the amenities we would need. From the moment I walked into my assigned office in the Whiteley–Study Building, however, I was stunned by the fireplace in the corner and doors opening out onto a beautiful knoll with a view of the harbor. During my residence, Arthur’s stated goals for interactions with others were certainly realized. I met many interesting, stimulating and delightful people during my time at the Center, and remain in contact with several.

My primary writing projects at the Center were focused on students engaged in the study of vertebrate structure and function. When discussing biological organisms, I provide an evolutionary and functional context to enrich the factual material and where possible, encourage students to take time and opportunity for self-discovery through hands-on experience. At the invitation of Milton Hildebrand I assisted in the revision of the 5th edition of his Analysis of Vertebrate Structure, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. in 2001. Our front-piece dedication to students reads:

May you learn and prosper, and also be encouraged to protect the remarkable animals with which we share the earth.

I also worked on a compilation of teaching essays directed at first year medical students engaged in the dissection of cadavers. To accomplish the goals of context and extend the dimensions of the material, I draw from art history, anthropology, the history of art and anatomy, and evolutionary biology. In all humility, I believe Helen Riaboff and Arthur would approve of my time spent.

Ilya Shmulevich

Masahia Fujita

Congratulations on the 20th anniversary of the Whiteley Center. Taking this opportunity, I and my wife, Yuko, would like to express our most sincere thanks to the Whiteley Center for the great opportunity and warmest care while we enjoyed the wonderful stay at the center in the summer of both 2016 and 2018. In each summer, it was just like a dream for me, working at the center with my research partner, Marcus Berliant, while interacting with many creative scholars in various fields.

Due to the great opportunity of working at the Whiteley Center with Marcus for the entire month of August in both 2016 and 2018 without interruption, we made big progresses on our joint research project on The Fine Microstructure of Knowledge Creation Dynamics: Inventing a Robot Economist?. Given that our project is of great ambition, i.e., developing an artificial intelligence (AI) for writing original economic research papers, it will take a bit of more time to complete the project. Although I was unable to work together with Marcus at the Whiteley Center in this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we intend to complete the project working together at the center in the coming summer of 2021, publishing several research papers together with a monograph.

I and Yuko would like to express also our deep appreciation of amazing environment of the center surrounded by natural forests with deers, foxes, raccoons, and all kinds of birds. It was also very exciting to watch many seals from the cliff behind the Friday Harbor Laboratories almost every evening after the wonderful dinner at the dining hall. On one evening, I and Yuko were surprised to see a pack of killer whales suddenly appearing in front of us at the cliff!

Again, thank you very much for the great opportunity and wonderful stay at the Whiteley Center. Please convey our big thanks to the Helen R. Whiteley Foundation as well as to all the people at the Whiteley Center and Friday Harbor Laboratories. Both I and Marcus, together with Yuko and Clara, look forward to visiting again the Whiteley Center in the next summer of 2021.

Moira Linehan

Suzanne Jill Levine

I am glad to send you this note of appreciation as a former faculty member of the UW (1984-88), and now a Professor Emeritus from the University of California. Among the projects (including literary translations) I worked on during two residencies (2010; 2013) Northwestern University Press published my translation The Lizard’s Tale, a posthumous work by Chile’s premier 20th century novelist José Donoso, about the impact of global tourism on Spain’s communities; my translation received a PEN USA award in 2012.

The Friday Harbor residencies have provided me with productive and relaxing periods of work and recreation—and the visiting deer a delight. I hope I can return again! What a rare privilege to enjoy the precious natural environment along with the amenities of the cottages and the studios and the charming benches down by the waterfront. The sterling staff, especially Kathy: pleasant and efficient always!

In recent years I have focused on a creative project “Memoirs of a Translator” which I worked on during my last residency.

Patricia Smith

Dear Whiteley Center 20th Anniversary Committee,

I was fortunate to be accepted as a Whiteley Scholar in both 2012 and 2013. When I first heard about the Whiteley Center, I thought the scholars program only benefited those who worked in the field of marine biology. It was my son Derek, then a doctoral candidate with advisors Ken Sebens, Megan Dethier, and Jennifer Ruesink, who clarified the mission of the Center. He explained that any writer, scientist, musician, artist or politician was welcome. He urged me to apply. So, I did. Much to my surprise and delight, I was accepted.

As the founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, I had been traveling the country for more than 10 years, educating caregivers in all the helping professions about compassion fatigue, a secondary traumatic stress syndrome that can devastate the life of a caregiver if authentic, sustainable self-care is not practiced daily.

As a journalist, I had already published three books on the subject and was in the final stages of completing another book entitled: Compassion Satisfaction: 50 Steps to Healthy Caregiving. My 2012 week at the Whiteley Center was timely as I was finishing up several chapters and needed some quiet time to do the final editing.

The solitude and surrounding beauty of my Whiteley Center cottage was just what I needed. Along with several shared meals with Derek, and daily walks into town, I was able to complete the work I had set out to do. I left a week later with a complete manuscript ready for publication.

While my days were filled with words, paragraphs and chapters, they were also filled with clarifying thoughts and dreams. I was fortunate to be able to visit Derek at this house on the Westside several times a year. With each visit, I fell more and more in love with Friday Harbor and the San Juan Islands. Derek, with his ever-positive attitude, urged me to make the move. Unfortunately, my commitments in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I lived, held me back. But I never let go of the dream.

Scribbling and Discovering, from Emily Whitman

I came to the Whiteley Center to write. I was working on a novel for children about a modern-day selkie. In Irish folklore, selkies slip off their seal pelts to take human form. In my book The Turning, Aran is an 11-year-old selkie born without a pelt, on a quest to discover who he is and where he belongs. I love the San Juan Islands—what better place to set my tale? And what better place to write than the Whiteley Center?

In a quiet room, at a wooden table, I scribbled and typed, plotted and dreamed, pausing now and then to gaze out large windows at sky, sea and shore. I walked a few steps to the shoreline and sat on a rock sheltered by branches, a spot that found its way into my book as a light-dappled tree cave where friends share secrets. Talks with other Whiteley scholars launched ideas for scenes about sharks, orcas, and dangers to the ocean itself. I found the Center is more than room to write: the air is alive with thought and creation.

The Turning won the 2019 Oregon Book Award for Children’s Literature, was a Junior Library Guild Selection, and was honored with the Oregon Spirit Book Award. Now the paperback is here, with a discussion guide. I’ve visited schools with the book, sharing slides I took during my Whiteley Center stay—the tide pools, coves, waves and creatures of Aran’s world. We’ve talked about taking care of the ocean, about bravery and finding your true voice. Voice, story—the Whiteley Center helped me find mine.

“If it can help someone,” I hear her say for the hundredth time on the audio tape now a quarter-century-old, “then tell my story.”

Carole Hickman


I arrived March 1, 2003 to spend six weeks, seeking solitude in a beautiful setting in order to think and write about the knotty “problem of similarity” – how to explain elegant and complex microstructural patterns that recur in the bioinorganic calcium carbonate larval shells of marine gastropods. I sent ahead a box of hundreds of Scanning Electron Micrographs, notes, and literature with the objective of writing a paper that would articulate the problem clearly, propose and test novel hypotheses, achieve solutions, and provide guidelines for future research.

This was the single most exciting time of discovery and productivity in my professional career. I completed the paper in four weeks and it was published as a cover story in Invertebrate Biology in 2004. I devoted the final two weeks to more thinking and plans that ultimately led to a series of papers exploring the “problem of similarity.” Repetition of structural elements is a major theme in the physical sciences in which I was trained, but it is also an essential feature in the art, music, and aesthetics that motivate my work.

As I read back over 40 pages of journal entries from my Whiteley sojourn, I relive memories that may be more interesting and worthy of tribute than the esoteric subjects of “heterotectonic construction”, the “funicity” of structural materials, and “remote biomineralization.” The off-season solitude and the beauty of winter and early spring walks in the woods, powdery snow flurries preceding the bursting of buds. The simple elegance (and radiantly heated floors!) of the newly completed Friends’ Cottage. The short walk to the Study Center. Views of the harbor. Looking up from my laptop in The Arthur's Study to a wall with a beautiful piece of Chinese calligraphy: in translation: “The sharpest sword achieves its’ edge on a hard whetstone. . . .The plum blossom its’ fragrance from a cold winter. The kindness and helpfulness of the staff. Correspondence with Steve Wainwright over a “pie in the sky” joint book elucidating “Principles of Structure”. Breaks from the computer screen for hands-on browsing in the library stacks. A lovely weekend break spent with Alan and Marian Kohn in Seattle. Much laughter over my post-arrival dinner with Dick and Meg Strathmann before they left for a sabbatical sojourn in Hawaii. It left me bereft of their company but with the generous loan of their car for travel to town for groceries. A visit from Arthur Whiteley — and an opportunity to give him my personal thanks for this incredible gift and experience in this amazing place.

Looking back there was much more. After everything was packed to leave, I returned to the Arthur's Study for a final entry in my journal: “Have I been doing/writing/thinking science? Or has it been art and music? The mind’s eye and ear have been as engaged as the intellect during these weeks. . . .

Paul Nelson

Fred Hamel

In January 2016, the Whiteley Center gave me a precious opportunity to get away from my usual academic routine and to complete a book project that I had been working on for several years. I was so thankful to have a quiet, island setting, a wonderful cabin, and incredible office space to write for about 30 days. The uninterrupted time, interspersed with long walks, watching the ferry, and daily bike rides around the island -- gave me mental space to organize my thoughts. I will always remember it! I enjoyed lovely interactions and a couple of dinners with other scholars who were working on different topics - one was on rural health. My book was published the following year. Many thanks to the Whiteley Center for sponsoring such an enjoyable and productive sabbatical.

Fred L. Hamel, Ph.D., Professor, School of Education, Director of School-Based Experience University of Puget Sound

Carsten Peters

Dear Whiteley Aficionados!

I had the chance to enjoy the Whiteley Center about eight years ago- and, my god, how I do miss it since then! My time on this beautiful campus in a gorgeous cabin truly changed my life.

Being someone mostly working within the sphere of international conflict resolution, the center provided me with a possibility to mentally “regenerate” from such strenuous professional assignments. During the time when I was there, it helped me to recover from a recent deployment that had taken place in tumultuous Afghanistan.

Feeling the need to create a kind of caesura at this point in my life, I decided to write a book about different experiences that I made all over the world. Despite already having had numerous articles published in magazines and newspapers before, I did not really know how to start such a demanding endeavor like doing a book.

However, when entering my campus-accommodation for the first time, this uncertainty was literally swept away at once. Looking at the tasteful furnishings and noticing the tranquility of the surroundings, ideas started to come up right away!

Thus, I sat down, wrote and stayed for almost four weeks. I got so obsessed that I almost did not see anything of the lovely island. I even started painting back then.

Now, years later, my – THAT- book is about to be published. I just signed the contract with a German publisher (it is written in German, my mother-tongue). Preliminary title is (translated): “Somewhere completely else- a life on the move”. We are currently exploring the possibility of having it translated into English.

When I registered with the Whiteley Center, I put down “Stories/ Walks of my heart” in the outline on my plans. Whereas I later changed the original title, the content of the book still relates to the idea of that first draft and is heavily inspired by the feelings that I had when I was in San Juan de Fuca and especially the ones I have when I think back!

The good thing is that I can now take over the not used title for the next project I just started- which is to write a book about Singapore: “My heart in Singapore”. This time in English. It will be a collection of short expressions of love for this place that accompanies me since my early teens. It is for the first time in life that I will write something basically uncritical which is- being a political analyst and journalist- an experience for itself, particularly when writing about a city like this one, if you know what I mean…

Martha Silano

I made my first visit to the Whiteley Center in the summer of 2008. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I will never forget how delighted I was to descend into the woods and arrive at our little cottage by the harbor.

My kids were 3 and 7 at the time, and their dad played camp counselor that week so I could work on a collection of poems. Each morning I would tiptoe out of bed and out the door with a sack lunch and briefcase to spend eight hours in my study.

While my son and daughter were roller-skating, clamming, biking, and hiking, I was researching about the cosmos. At 5 pm or so, I’d head back to our cottage to help with dinner preparation and excitedly share with my husband what I’d learned that day.

I didn’t know it then, but the research I began during that short stay would end up as the inspiration for a book of poems, The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, which was chosen by MacArthur Fellow Campbell McGrath as the winner of the 2010 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize.

Between 2008-2020, I visited the Center 24 more times. During those stays, I continued to conduct research about the cosmos (and other things as well) and publish two more books of poetry (as well as writing two as-yet unpublished manuscripts).

At the Center, I also collaborated/co-authored The Daily Poet: Day-by-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice, book of 366 writing exercises – yes, one for every day of the year – with Kelli Russell Agodon; two of my short-stays were spent at the Center with Kelli, drafting and testing out each other’s newly-designed writing prompts (we have a residency coming up in a few weeks to work on The Daily Poet 2!).

When my kids were little, spending time at the Whiteley was beyond precious – it was divine. I would show up for a few days, begin writing shortly after unpacking, and write/read 18 hours a day. I just couldn’t take enough advantage of having all that time to myself to work on poems!

As my kids grew up, and the need for uninterrupted time became less crucial, I began to view the Center as a place to go deeper into my work. Also, it became a place to commune with nature. I began bringing my notebook with me on my walks to the bluffs, drafting poems while looking over the harbor. I also became more focused on the animals that live in harmony with the human residents – the deer, quail, eagles, pine siskins, house wrens, woodpeckers, flycatchers, foxes, and other woodland creatures. Several of these Whiteley regulars have found their way into my poems.

It’s impossible to convey in words how important the Center has been to my growth as a poet, or how much joy the environs have brought me. I can only say that when I go for more than a year without a visit, I miss it so much I just have to figure out a way to return. My gratitude is immeasurable. As I have shared with many, I refer to the Whiteley as my spiritual home.

Lisa Tuback

“Tiny Giants,” oil/acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 inches, 2017. Collection of Dollar Tree Corporation.

Cultivating an art practice that embraces scientific volunteerism, my creative endeavors are significantly shaped by field work opportunities with marine environments. Most of these experiences involve work that is conducted underwater or within intertidal areas, with a water resistant notepad and camera in hand. The subsequent labor in the studio tackles not only the science but related emotional quandaries, with images exploring the line between representation and abstraction. I consider these pieces, albeit a blend of factual and invented imagery, as documents of environments we must fight to preserve: they are quiet calls to action.

My time at the Whiteley Center was a really important inflection point for me. I brought with me a newly-purchased microscope which greatly fed the work, along with the rich experiences I had at the FHL. The Whiteley Center residency was a critical part of my journey as an artist who works with science—and it set the stage for more experiences of this nature.

As a part of this artistic path, I have worked with reef ecologists, shark conservationists, invertebrate specialists and others. These opportunities not only provide me with authentic visual data, but I regard the field work as a key component to my creative practice. It is a performance of sorts: a vital ritual, to document and assess. The resulting imagery often contains juxtapositions of health and illness, micro/macro relationship, and blended ecologies.

  • Specifically, while at the Whiteley Center my practice was greatly augmented by the following:
  • My new microscope and the examination of plankton
  • The daily documentation of the pier and life under the docks via my go-pro camera
  • An opportunity to experience educational trawling via the Centennial
  • The opportunity to witness a necropsy of a baby seal on the dock
  • Lab visits through the invitation of Dr. James Murray (CalState-EastBay), where I saw many nudibranchs and other species
  • The field work with Dr. Bill Kem (Univ. of FL), collecting Nemertea in the intertidal areas
  • The incredible Illg Distinguished lecture of Dr. Lauren Mullineaux (WHOI) on Deep Sea Hydrothermal Vent Communities
  • The wonderful opportunity to meet photographer Susan Middleton (I was so delighted to see her work featured in the Bishop Museum in Honolulu recently)
  • My participation in the Invertebrate Ball (encouraged by Elizabeth Olsen Murray and Jim Murray)--dressed as a Metridium
  • The kindness and helpfulness of all FHL staff, especially Kathy Cowell and Pema Kitaeff (who was very patient with me as I experienced the snorkeling safety test)
“Hurry (Study),” oil on canvas, 12 x 12 inches, 2017.

I loved every ounce of my time at the Whiteley Center—the fawns that would come up and look at me working in the studio, with views of the water in the background. The incredible Douglas Firs. The lovely town of Friday Harbor that I experienced via a bicycle rented from Meat Machine Cycles. The Whiteley Center’s architectural spaces are really incredible— so conducive to the well needed time for quiet contemplation on one’s craft. It was lovely to be in such a magical part of the world, being granted the time to think and work, and to be supported in such a beautiful, thoughtful manner. Thank you so much for this experience.

Root Gorelick

Dear Kathy:

I was thrilled with my stay at the Whiteley Centre. The environment allowed me to think much more broadly than usual, working on projects such as the brittle prickly-pear cactus on the San Juan Islands and, in a very unrelated area, mathematically how best to measure diversity in hiring decisions and in genetics. As it turns out, hiring decisions and genetic diversity are highly linked. My stay in 2017 also got me started thinking about how to make academic freedom more inclusive, as well as how academic freedom could be used to make universities much more diverse, inclusive, and equitable. What an amazing environment and people. I loved being able to sit on the benches overlooking Friday Harbour while on my laptop each day, as well as running the hill into town every morning and many evenings and was even happy getting my feet soaking wet on the trails out back. Thanks!

Prof. Root Gorelick, Carleton University, Dept. of Biology and School of Mathematics & Statistics and Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies. 1125 Raven Road (unceded Algonquin Anishnaabeg territory) Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6 Canada

Penelope Moffet

I was lucky enough to stay at the Hellen R. Whitelely Center twice; for a month in Fall 2004 and for 2 weeks in Fall 2013. Both times were highly productive. I loved staying in cottages right on that beautiful cove, deep in the shaded mystery of Ann’s and in more open-faced but still peaceful Charlie’s. Wandering around the Labs and the dock and along the shore and through the trees, I felt a great opening of lands sea sky. Many poems emerged. Although I was mostly solitary during my residencies, I also enjoyed and learned from conversation with other Whiteley Scholars and with faculty and students encountered around campus and in the Dining Hall. My memories of the Whiteley Center are happy ones, of freedom and unencumbered time in which to create.

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