[ skip to content ]


Ronald E. Johnson became interested in oceans when he played as a boy at the seacoast of his home state of Oregon. Two decades later, in 1968, he was recruited to be one of the first professors with the Institute of Oceanography of then-Old Dominion College.

This summer, after a career of nearly 40 years, he is retiring from Old Dominion University and taking a trip to Oregon with his wife Roberta, who is also retiring from her job as senior secretary in communications and theater arts.

Ron Johnson's career was celebrated June 20 at a retirement party in Webb University Center.

"Ron was certainly one of our most notable instructors of freshman classes at the university," said Joseph Rule, interim dean of the College of Sciences. "Thousands of students have fond memories of ODU as a result of his classes."

Dennis Darby, professor of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences, wrote in a retirement scrapbook that was presented to Johnson: "I think Ron will be most remembered for his teaching of the intro oceanography classes for decades. As a result, he is undoubtedly one of the best-known faculty at ODU.

"One of my memories of Ron is seeing the U.S. Navy part of him," wrote Fred Dobbs, another professor in the department. " Perhaps the happiest I've ever seen Ron was the day he announced he had been promoted to captain."

His colleagues kidded Johnson in the scrapbook about reputation as a gourmand. One entry listed "everything" as his favorite food.

Most of the scrapbook made note of and praised his two major claims to fame at ODU: teaching and university service. He served as a regional officer for the Phi Kappa Phi honor society, as assistant dean of graduate services in sciences, as associate director of graduate studies, and as the chief oceanography department advisor and main instructor in the Oceanography 106N/107N lab science course that more than 400 students take each year to satisfy their general education requirement.

His research interests in deep ocean circulation and waves and tides, made him a popular commentator on seacoast disasters such as the 2004 tsunami that caused devastation in India, Sri Lanka and other countries bordering on the Indian Ocean.

Johnson wanted to make it known that his wife may be retiring at the same time he is, but that she is not nearly old enough to have the number of years at ODU that he does. The couple will visit Oregon to assist her parents with house painting and other chores at their home in the hills above Coos Bay. They will also visit his mother.

This article was posted on: June 21, 2007

Old Dominion University
Office of University Relations

Room 100 Koch Hall Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0018
Telephone: 757-683-3114

Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.