When Hamilton made significant investments in environmentally focused science offerings nearly two decades ago, Trustee Joel Johnson ’65, P’93 and his family wanted to ensure the brightest minds found among science faculty were at the forefront of environmental research. That’s when they established — what was at that time — the largest endowed professorship in the College’s history.
“There’s nothing more important than our professors,” Johnson says. “To be in a position to support them made [creating the endowment] an easy decision for us.”
Geosciences professor and hydrogeology expert Todd Rayne is the second faculty member to be appointed the Joel W. Johnson Family Professor of Environmental Science since it was created in 2006. The endowment is designed to advance research and teaching in the physical sciences, especially as they pertain to the study of the environment.
“To be in a position to support them made [creating the endowment] an easy decision for us.”
For Rayne, it’s had a profound impact on his scholarly work with surface water and groundwater and has helped several communities in the Mohawk Valley, as well as the work he does with students. “It’s allowed me to pursue the things I’m interested in much more easily than I would have otherwise,” he says.
Hydrogeologists like Rayne are not common at small liberal arts colleges, which means Hamilton students enjoy access to resources made possible thanks to Rayne’s expertise and the endowment. The stipend has enabled him to pay student travel expenses to national geology meetings, have water samples analyzed, and purchase high-tech equipment, among other benefits.
“I have a lot of students who call or email me now to say, ’Thank you for teaching that course because that’s what got me my job’ or ’I’m using some of these tools in my own research for my Ph.D. or master’s degree,’” Rayne says. “Students who take classes with me or conduct research with me have the chance to see and use tools that you’d only typically find at big research universities or out in the real world.”