About two months ago, I noted with great sadness the passing of a legendary figure in fluvial geomorphology, M. Gordon “Reds” Wolman, long-time professor at The Johns Hopkins University and inspiration to hundreds, if not thousands, of geomorphologists, hydrologists, and environmental scientists around the world.
In the past two months, Wolman’s students and colleagues have done an outstanding job of paying tribute to our hero. On April 11th, generations of Wolman’s students gathered on the Hopkins campus for a memorial service, which included a eulogy from a childhood friend and reflections from Hopkins geomorphology colleague Peter Wilcock. The day before the memorial, many of the attendees conducted their own Reds’ style field trip to some of his favorite locations in Baltimore County and waved their arms and debated some of the same questions Reds had spent decades pondering. (Sadly, I could not attend the celebration, because I was leading my hydrogeology class on a field trip to Congaree National Park, but somehow I feel like Reds would understand.)
Among the lasting tributes to Wolman are a couple of JHU web pages, two wonderful videos (below), and perhaps my favorite memorial ever:
A permanent memorial tribute will be installed outside the classrooms in Ames Hall where Reds Wolman taught for more than a half century. Stones provided by students, colleagues and friends from around the world will be constructed into a path in a shape that mirrors a meandering river.
For those of you still wondering what all the fuss was about (and still reading this post), please take a few more minutes and listen to the preface of one of Wolman’s seminal works and some reflections from Wolman’s colleagues and students (including, if you listen carefully, me) and from Wolman himself.
Reds is deeply missed by all who knew him, but these wonderful tributes give us a small way to hang on to the man who influenced, encouraged, and inspired us.