The Godmother for the Celebrity Solstice is not a star of stage and screen; instead, she 'stars' in a field of enormous importance to Celebrity Cruises: the world's oceans. Professor Sharon L. Smith, the first ocean scientist ever to serve as Godmother of a cruise ship, joined Celebrity executives on Saturday to name the brand's sleek, 2,850-guest ship in formal ceremonies at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"We are genuinely privileged to have such a remarkable woman serve as Godmother of this remarkable ship," said Richard D. Fain, Chairman of Celebrity Cruises and Chairman and CEO of parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "Sharon Smith is exceptional in ways well beyond her academic achievements."
A magna cum laude graduate of Colorado College, Smith earned a Ph.D. in Zoology from Duke University, holds two additional honorary doctorate degrees, and a master's degree from the University of Auckland, where she also was a Fulbright fellow.
A biological oceanographer, Smith has traveled the world in research expeditions from Polar Regions to the Arabian Sea. She has devoted her career to studying some of the smallest components of food webs, with a particular focus on zooplankton and how their life cycles are tuned to physical forces, such as daylength in the Arctic or summer monsoons in the Arabian Sea. These tiny, two-millimeter-long animals are the biggest source of protein in the oceans, and all oceanic animals -- from seabirds to small fish to whales -- are ultimately dependent on them for food.
Smith investigates ecosystems by looking at how ocean physics shape the availability of the food supply, and the effects of global warming on food for birds, fish, and baleen whales, among other animals.
Smith served 15 years at the prestigious Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, New York, studying coastal ocean environments and the impact of nuclear energy projects. In 1993, she joined the faculty of the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science as a Professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries. Recently, she was named Dean of the Undergraduate Program in Marine Science, and also co-directs the university's Oceans and Human Health Center.
"If it is possible to eclipse our Godmother's professional achievements, she has done it in a way that deeply inspires all who know her, as she has conquered cancer ... twice," said Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Dan Hanrahan.
Due in equal parts to her courage and her instincts as a scientist, Smith overcame cancer in 1993, and again in 1996. Her annual mammogram in 1993 turned up a two-millimeter cancerous lesion, about the size of a pencil point. She opted for a mastectomy, and emerged victorious over the malicious disease. And in 1996, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. But she won that battle, too.
"Women should not feel secure just because there is no family history of the disease," said Smith. "You have to be your own best advocate and insist on what's right for you, because you have to live with the possibility of the disease forever."
Smith's story is a powerful example of the critical need for basic breast-cancer screenings -- and the reason why Celebrity Solstice, in partnership with United Way on November 16, will raise $100,000 for breast cancer programs to assist lower-income women who otherwise couldn't afford this simple measure that ultimately could save their lives.
This is a disease that affects mothers and daughters, sisters and spouses, and has deep meaning to an unfortunately high percentage of Celebrity Cruises' employees, guests and travel agent partners," said Hanrahan. "With our Celebrity brand devoted to offering an entirely genuine experience since its founding, we knew nothing less than someone authentic -- a survivor and devoted, outspoken advocate of early detection and research -- would do, and we found that in Sharon Smith."
"All of us at Celebrity Cruises are exceptionally proud and honored to call inspiring ocean scientist, brave cancer survivor, and very special lady, Sharon Smith, Godmother of Celebrity Solstice," said Fain.
Celebrity Solstice will embark on its inaugural season November 23, on a series of seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruises roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale. In spring 2009, the stunning new ship will introduce a series of romantic 10- and 11-night Mediterranean sailings roundtrip from Rome.