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Rick Johnson

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, Tennessee, where I often worked part-time and summers in the family water well drilling and supply business. 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 studied electrical engineering at Duke University. In the summer of my junior year (1973), I attended a three-week “Hydrology Workshop for Professionals” at Ohio University taught by Dr. Moid Ahmad. 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. Dr. Ahmad discovered that he wanted an electrical engineering graduate as his Teaching Assistant, so I returned to Ohio University after graduation from Duke and received my M.S. in Geology in 1977.

My first real job after graduation was with the Southwest Florida Water Management District evaluating and issuing groundwater consumptive use permits. This was followed by a brief stint with Harza Engineering Company in Chicago modeling impacts on aquifer systems of massive coal strip mining in Wyoming. In 1979, I began a 40-year career at the environmental engineering firm of Camp Dresser & McKee Inc. (now CDM Smith Inc.), working primarily in water resources and hazardous waste remediation in various roles and locations (Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, Clearwater (FL), Oak Ridge (TN), Orlando, and Alsbach (Germany). I began at CDM as a project manager primarily for groundwater modeling projects and advanced over the years in various roles as a program manager, office/area manager, firm-wide water resources leader, technical division manager, chief technical officer, and group chief operating officer (for the Europe/Middle East/Africa Group and at retirement the 2,000-person technical services division). I retired in 2019, having served clients in the public (cities, counties, states), federal (EPA, DOE, US Military), and private (industrial) sectors.

I initially stayed in touch with the Geological Sciences Department after graduation 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.