Have you ever been to a city dump?

I opened the newspaper the other day to see a picture of Professor Emeriti Jerre Johnson, who was leading a walk and talk about Virginia Coastal Plain Geology in one of the local parks.  I first met Professor Johnson in 1994 when he was leading a tour for alumni through the Hampton City Dump.  Pretty odd, I admit, but entertaining and educational.  We were exploring the fossils that he found for us in the landfill.  Besides thinking this was a weird place to be I was really struck by the twinkle in his eye, the energy in his step and his tremendous love of teaching.  I said then and continue to say now that if I had taken geology with Professor Johnson when I was a student, I would definitely have majored in geology.  His enthusiasm for his subject is contagious.

My connections with Professor Johnson continued through the years.  There was the evening my family and I were eating at the local pizza place and we ran into him.  My kids were about 3 and 5 at the time.  Professor Johnson interrupted his dinner to go out to his truck to bring in a fossil for each of my kids and proceeded to teach them about their fossils.  A couple of years later he gave my son and I a tour of the whale fossil that was housed beneath the stands of Zable Stadium.  In first grade, my son needed to do a project on ‘Moons’.  He asked me if Prof. Johnson could get him a moon rock.  After I explained to my young son, that moon rocks were very rare and it was unlikely, my son wrote a note to Prof. Johnson asking him if he could borrow a moon rock for his project.  While Professor Johnson did not have a moon rock that he could loan out, he loaned my son two rocks that you could find on the moon and explained all of this to my first grader.

The greatest thing about Professor Jerre Johnson, is that he is one among many, many professors at W&M who love their work and love to teach so much that it carries beyond their classrooms and beyond even their students. If you meet Professor Johnson, ask him about Chesapecten Jeffersonius, I know it will make him smile.

– Betsy Quinzio

Categories: Academics, Faculty & Staff Blogs

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