LIMA — A Nobel Prize winner who grew up in Lima finally has something named after him in the city.
City officials unveiled the signs for the William A. Fowler Memorial Overpass on Thursday morning. The former Jameson Overpass runs past Fowler’s boyhood brick home at the corner of Jameson and Hazel avenues.
The new signs on the approaches recognize Fowler, an astrophysicist who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 with Subramanyan Chandrasekhar for realizing how all elements are related created under extreme conditions during a star’s lifetime and said, “All of us are truly and literally a lit bit of stardust.”
The overdue recognition was driven by eighth-graders from South Science and Technology Magnet, who worked throughout the year to name something after Fowler as part of this year’s “Stardust: The William A. Fowler Science Series,” a project by Lima schools, the city and Ohio State University-Lima. Along the way, they learned about the government process and filmed a mockumentary, filmed by Lima company Modo Media.
“I didn’t even really know who he was until we started writing about this,” said Hailey Hahn, one of the “Fowler Kids” featured in the fake documentary. “I think that’s kind of sad nobody knows who he is, when he did so many great things.”
Lee Hogan, another eighth-grader working on the project, said the signs should help remind students of what they can accomplish if they try.
“He’s definitely inspirational,” Hogan said. “He won the Nobel Prize. They can be like, ‘Dang, I could do that.’ It’s really motivational.”
Fowler moved to Lima from Pittsburgh when he was 2. He attended Horace Mann School and Lima Central High School, where he was president of the senior class of 1929, according to his autobiography written for the Nobel Prize, where he shared fond memories of the neighborhood. Fowler, an Ohio State University graduate, died March 14, 1995.
“As a boy I spent many hours in the switch yards of the Pennsylvania Railroad not far from my family home,” Fowler wrote about the railroad line that the overpass now bearing his name stretches over. “It is no wonder that I go around the world seeking passenger trains still pulled by steam locomotives.”
In the mockumentary, Lima Public Works Director Howard Elstro played the foil to the Hahn, Hogan, Gavin Capuchino and Chance Sanders. In reality, he said he was happy to walk them through the process, including the unintended consequences if they tried to rename a street after Fowler, forcing people to change addresses on all their accounts and government documents. Earlier this year, the students addressed Lima council with their request to rename the overpass, which it approved.
“It was quite an opportunity for the students to learn about public works, about public facilities and what is important in the way of naming various infrastructure,” Elstro said.
Lima Mayor David Berger learned about Fowler’s contributions to science during the inductions into the Lima City Schools Hall of Fame in 1990. He noted Fowler’s lasting impact on science, inspiring people from Carl Sagan to Bill Nye.
“We’re here to honor a Lima person who impacted our world, literally the world, and the trajectory and understanding of scientific endeavors,” Berger said. “Most in the City of Lima do not know who William A. Fowler is, but as a result of the actions of these students and city council’s action, we expect that in the future everyone will know William Fowler. They’ll know what it means when we say, ‘We are stardust.’”