Between October 2008 and October 2009 I was the 2009 Richard H. Jahns Distinguished Lecturer in Engineering Geology, awarded by the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists and the Geological Society of America (Engineering Geology Division). The award is named in honor of the late Professor Richard Jahns, a former Dean of Earth Sciences at Stanford university, and an eminently practical geologist. I was the 21st Lecturer. The 22nd Lecturer for 2010 was Prof. Paul Marinos of the National Technical University of Athens, Greece.
I presented 85 Lectures, including 8 side frolics at noon brown bags lectures at various firms. I offered seven Lecture titles with Abstracts. Generally, I organized Lectures as series in geographical areas. I call them Jahns Jaunts. The Jaunts were as short as one day or as long as 17 days (Phoenix-Albuquerque-Austin-Dallas-Charleston, SC-Raleigh, NC-Blacksburg, VA).
The AEG and GSA provided a $10,000 stipend toward expenses. Geosyntec Consultants, also generously supported some of my time and another $10,000. But the greatest financial contribution was by individual Universities and AEG Sections who kindly provided checks, meals, chauffeur services, and lodgings.
The award was more than a handsome wall plaque. It was a job – that of lecturing to university students and professional groups across North America. Of the seven Jahns Lectures I offered, those with odd titles, like The Comforts of Ignorance and the Benefits of Arrogance, seemed the most popular. But the most useful were not requested very often: An Introduction to the Use of Ground-Based Stereo Photography in Geopractice and The Least You Should Know About Characterizing Geological Chaos. The latter Lecture is for a technical specialty in which I have some international reputation: bimrocks!. Perhaps bimrocks took too much effort for people to understand. Yet – that is the point of presenting Jahns Lectures: to make people think in terms of the useful bits of the Applied Earth Sciences…
During the Jahns Jahr I traveled a great deal – over 45,000 miles for a total of 67 days; by plane, plane, plane, plane…, bus, car and train. For many months I traveled with crutches, since I had knee surgery in the beginning of December 2008 which severely interfered with my Jahns schedule for few weeks. It is amazing how fast and far university professors want to hustle the Jahns Lecturer when he is hobbling!!
I also delighted in hunting and capturing snapshots once I was able to start early-morning hobbling on my crutches in late March. Several photos are shown in this post and more can be seen in this album.
I do not care for long distance driving but had a few Jaunts where I had to drive everywhere like a gypsy for 1000 miles or more. But I was spoiled by the many kind people who drove me from venue to venue. The Carolinas Section of the AEG showed the way how to treat the Jahns Distinguished Lecturer with Distinction: they organized a wonderful 6-day, 7-Lecture Jahns Jaunt from Charleston, SC to Blacksburg, VA, relaying me from place to place with a team of drivers. It was splendid to be a sightseer and not to have to worry about getting to strange University campuses on time after a 300 mile drive. The last 2 blocks and 10 minutes were the most stressful when rushing to a venue, especially in driving rain.
Most amazingly: during the Jahr I put on little weight, although hospitality from AEG Sections and Universities invariably required me to eat lunches, breakfasts, dinner and sundry snacks on the road and at venues. I do not normally eat that much when not traveling – on Jahns Jaunts I ate so much pizza that when we were in Italy in May, I declined to even look at pizza….
I met many wonderful, clever, friendly people. I had much practice at not just small-talk, but real talk, even soulful sharing, with like-minded folk. It is the people that I remember the most now that I have finished my Jahns Jahr, and it is some of them that I recalled when I posted my final summary of statistics and a few thoughts.