Remembering a Motivator, Mentor and Role Model

  • Ravens Rewind
Remembering a Motivator, Mentor and Role Model
Gretchen Presnell Hyde ’04

Longtime Ravenscroft coach Cherie Fowler, who passed away in April, led by example and “loved like no one else.”

Ask any graduate of Ravenscroft about a teacher who made a positive and lasting impact on their life, and most will quickly name one or even a handful of role models that they have continued to look up to long after their K-12 years. Ravenscroft’s pool of outstanding faculty is deep, yet some names rise to the surface frequently. Coach Cherie Fowler is one of them.

Beloved to so many students and colleagues, Cherie Fowler passed away on April 4, 2021. As Ravens far and wide heard about her passing, they shared tributes and memories on her Facebook page, Ravenscroft’s social media and in the school’s In Memoriam email message.

Annie Newell-Fugate ’96 wrote on Facebook, “I’m so sad over the loss of sweet Coach Cherie Fowler. She pushed me to be my best on the track but always had a listening ear and a patient heart. Truly one of God’s greatest children. … Truly she loved and supported so many of us in our development into the positive forces we are on this planet today.”

In Fowler’s first year at Ravenscroft, she coached both volleyball and cross country. Lucy Corbin ’80 wrote in the 1980 Corvus yearbook that, while the volleyball team didn’t have a winning season, “There were two things that helped us through the disappointments: our closeness as a team, and our coaches.”

In the 26 years that Coach Fowler was a faculty member at Ravenscroft, she served as the Physical Education Department chair, volleyball coach, track and field coach and a high school advisor. But more than that, she was a motivator, mentor and role model.

Always a favorite with students, Coach Fowler exuded joy and sought out fun. Yet the depth of character she modeled and the lessons she helped students learn were lasting. She mastered the delicate balance in asking the right questions and pushing us from a place of love. Coach Fowler didn’t give anyone the easy way out, nor did she choose that route for herself. Instead, she sought what was right and honest and challenged others to pursue those paths as well. She had high expectations, stretching every student and athlete, all the while making sure they knew and felt her deep care and love.

Her deep Christian faith motivated and guided her life, and she was the faculty advisor for the school’s chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. It was evident that her work with students was both a service and a calling. As Dianna Culbreth Wagoner ’00 shared, “I don’t think I can fully explain the impact she had on my life. Coach Fowler loved like no one else (I’m sure she’d say ‘I love like Christ’), and that’s the truth. She loved you so utterly and completely that I could go years without seeing her or catching up and I still knew I’d be loved by her more than I could imagine. That’s the kind of love I can still feel today.”

By the 1982-83 school year, athletes on Fowler’s teams were experiencing success: “Many school records were shattered,” the 1983 Corvus’ summary of the track team’s season reads, and “Quanah [Bullock ’84]’s performance was good enough to have him named Most Valuable Performer of the State meet.”

One of my own treasured memories with Coach Fowler was at FCA one evening in the early 2000s. Student leaders had put together a “gutter sundae” — inviting everyone to eat ice cream sundaes out of a giant house gutter. The gathering quickly turned into a giant food fight, with Coach Fowler right in the middle of it all, covered in chocolate sauce and whip cream, all with a huge smile on her face. This memory reminds me of her joyful spirit, but it also shows how she chose to be “in it” with her students. She offered a listening ear and her smile was never far from surfacing, even in challenging situations. 

When she retired in 2006, friends created the Cherie Fowler FCA Endowment Fund to support the FCA  in perpetuity. That same year, the Alumni Association inducted her into the Class of 1862 honorary alumni society, recognizing her exceptional commitment to the school and its students. In 2010, she was inducted into the Ravenscroft Sports Hall of Fame in recognition of her many contributions as a coach. 

Jennifer Wohlers ’01 beautifully summed up Coach Fowler in this tribute on the school’s Facebook page: “She was beautiful inside and out. A true mentor and leader.”

Wohlers shared this photo of Fowler with her husband, adding, “This is my favorite pic of Cherie. She loved the water, the Chesapeake Bay, her husband and was just always smiling and positive. I probably love the photo more for what we were doing and the time we had with her during this trip. I know you see a woman with hands up on a boat, but I remember her mentorship, her kindness and her spirit.”

The most powerful mentors don’t make an impact for a day or a season; their legacy lives on as their work continues in the hearts and lives of those who looked up to them. Coach Fowler’s impact and legacy will undoubtedly carry on in the countless students she made such an impact on and continues to shape today.

A passionate, demanding coach throughout her career at Ravenscroft, Fowler — seen here in huddles with the volleyball team in the 2003 and 2004 seasons — was also a much-beloved advocate and role model for students.