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Rick Johnson, Geological Sciences Alumni Advisory Board Member

Rick Johnson, portrait
Rick Johnson

Duke University B.S. Electrical Engineering '74, Ohio University M.S. Geology '77

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tenn., where I often worked part-time and summers in the family water well drilling and supply business out of Memphis. We had multiple branch offices and installed municipal water wells throughout the Mississippi Delta area (west TN, AR, AL, MS, LA). Following graduation from high school, I attended Duke University studying electrical engineering. 

In the summer of my junior year (1973), I was pulling pumps and installing well control systems in 100-degree heat in southern Louisiana when my father offered me the opportunity to attend a three-week “Hydrology Workshop for Professionals” at Ohio University taught by Dr. Moid Ahmad – my father thought someone in the family business should get up to speed on the new field of groundwater hydrology. For me, this was a no-brainer, working in the heat or attending classes for three weeks on the company’s nickel, so I went. That year was one of the down periods for oil, so nearly all workshop attendees were oil geologists trying to learn about the water business, and I was the only engineer. However, in the groundwater portion of the workshop, I discovered that the math governing groundwater flow was the same as electron flow, that groundwater movement was (until recently at that time) being modeled by resistor/capacitor/inductor networks, and that my primary area of interest at Duke (digital computers) would revolutionize groundwater modeling; and Dr. Ahmad discovered that he wanted an electrical engineering graduate as his Teaching Assistant. I returned to Ohio University after graduation from Duke and received my M.S. in Geology in 1977.

I initially stayed in touch with the Geological Sciences Department, and briefly served as an Adjunct Associate Professor in 1992 when I returned to Athens to teach a one-week, one-credit hour course in environmental regulations. At that time, I also funded the Johnson Fellowship, a three-year research grant for hydrology students. I am very pleased and excited to reestablish contact with the department and serve on the Alumni Advisory Board.