When Bill Charrier’s two daughters were young, he and his wife Anne traveled during their spring vacations to Bermuda, where Charrier tended to corporate business for his East Coast-based shipping companies. One of his stockholders also served on the board at BIOS and introduced Charrier to the marine research and education goals at the institute.
“My interest at first was primarily in the educational side of the BIOS mission,” Charrier said. “Anne and I were involved in a number of activities at Princeton” – his alma mater – “and saw an opportunity to extend some existing faculty research collaborations into a joint program that would involve undergraduates in cutting-edge research teams.”
Those interests led to the creation of summer courses and internships at BIOS for Princeton undergrads, followed by higher-level research opportunities for the university’s graduate students, and research and advising partnerships for doctoral candidates. Over time, his dedication to BIOS deepened to include service on the board of trustees. In April last year, the relationship culminated with his election as chairman of the BIOS board.
Charrier, 67, brings to BIOS leadership expertise from a career centered on ship owning, ship operations, and international logistics. For 20 years, starting in 1983, he was a founding investor and CEO of American Automar, a ship owning firm specializing in providing sealift services to the U.S. Armed Forces. Though he initially intended to retire in 2003, he went on to serve until 2007 as an investor and chairman in the revival of the container ship company US Lines.
Retirement brought the opportunity to give more of his time, financial resources, and management expertise as a member of the BIOS board. That included leading the strategic planning committee, which established a more comprehensive level of collaboration between the board and BIOS management. This set the stage for a broad, four-part model of operation that board members and management have spent the last year putting in place.
“BIOS is in a period of self assessment and strategic optimization, and Bill’s willingness to dive into the analytics and work through a variety of issues collaboratively with the senior management is exactly what is needed at this time,” said BIOS president and CEO Bill Curry.
Finding that optimal level of board engagement, without treading into management prerogatives, is among the first goals of the board, Charrier noted. Second is improving the way that BIOS communicates about its science research and education globally, as well as for the local island community. He calls this “the core of what we hope is only the beginning of greatly expanded development program.”
Third is incorporating the latest technology advances for marine science research, alongside BIOS’ multi-decadal, ship-based ocean measurement programs. The initial step has been an investment in gliders, which travel up and down through the water column for weeks and months at a time as they are guided via satellite communications by land-based researchers.
The fourth goal aims to increase BIOS’ role as an incubator for young scientists. Today’s generation is drawn—as researchers have been since the founding of the Bermuda-based marine biological center in 1903—to the island’s mid-Atlantic Ocean location and diverse surrounding environment.
“We want to make BIOS a place that attracts not just good scientists, but the very best early-career investigators,” Charrier said. “Over the history of BIOS the institute has been most exciting and successful when there has been a gaggle of such extraordinary young talent, with one or two grey heads around to maintain perspective.”
Charrier succeeded BIOS board chairman Brian Duperreault, who served for eight years. Duperreault continues to serve on BIOS’s board as Co-Chair of the Development and External Affairs Committee, which is charged with raising the profile of BIOS through strategic partnerships and outreach efforts, and helping to secure philanthropic support that advances BIOS’s mission.
During his tenure as board chairman, Duperreault led the institute through a comprehensive marketing and rebranding effort, which he is building upon in his new role. He also enabled BIOS to engage with a professional consulting firm to help the organization through the recent strategic planning process.
In keeping with their spring tradition of traveling to Bermuda, Charrier and his wife Anne will arrive from their home in Potomac, Maryland again this April for a board meeting at BIOS. Charrier said he’s grateful for the ongoing science education he receives at BIOS, and feels satisfaction from supporting work devoted to marine research and education.
“Science is not my training but I have learned more about the research strengths at BIOS as we have gone along,” he said. “We are a small institution involved in a big, expensive field that addresses some of the most important questions and issues on the planet. It’s an engaging challenge to work with the topflight management, and diverse board, that we have to help guide how we build on BIOS’ unique assets.”