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M. Gordon Reds Wolman Dies at 85

Published March 1, 2010
photo of M. Gordon Wolman
M. Gordon "Reds" Wolman

ALEXANDRIA, VA – March 1, 2010. Last week on February 24, at the age of 85, M. Gordon (Reds) Wolman died, leaving the field of water resources (and the world in general) a little smaller, but immeasurably improved because of his passion for water, for teaching, for public policy and for people. Reds was the B. Howard Griswold Professor of Geography and International Affairs at Johns Hopkins University, a long-time friend of IWR, and a teacher and mentor for many of IWR's staff.

Professor Wolman's career was defined by fundamental contributions to our understanding of rivers, supported by pioneering work in developing interdisciplinary environmental education and an extraordinary commitment to the application of research to river management and policy. Reds was a distinguished scholar, a visionary academic, a devoted citizen, and an extraordinary human being who inspired and delighted generations of students and colleagues, all friends.

Professor Wolman received his Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University. He worked as a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey from 1951 to 1958. He joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1958, where he helped to found the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, which he then chaired from 1970 to 1990. Reds played a central role in characterizing rivers in a modern, quantitative and generalizable framework that still provides the standard against which new models and concepts are evaluated. Committed to the idea that environmental stewardship required comprehensive knowledge, he acted as a leader in determining the nature and scope of effective and rigorous environmental education.

Professor Wolman contributed his expertise to a number of distinguished panels and organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, World Health Organization, Resources for the Future, International Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Savannah River Plant, State of Maryland, and National Academy commissions, boards and committees for water management and policy. His indefatigable service and good-natured wisdom influenced environmental decisions and decision-makers around the world. For those who knew him, Reds' professional accomplishments merely provided context for his greater personal contributions through his inspired combination of warmth, wit and genuine affection for all with whom he came into contact.

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