PRISM - American Society for Engineering Education - Logo - NOVEMBER 2004 - VOLUME 14, NUMBER 3
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Faculty's Finest: Charley Johnson - The Whole Nine Yards

By Thomas K. Grose

As far as football careers go, Charley Johnson's was stellar. As a chemical engineering undergraduate, he quarterbacked the New Mexico State University Aggies to two consecutive Sun Bowl victories, and his 1960 team was undefeated. He went on to a 15-year NFL career, quarterbacking for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Denver Broncos, and the Houston Oilers. Today, Johnson is back at NMSU. He was head of the chemical engineering department, but in September was named to a new post that takes advantage of his sports career: assistant to the president for athletic progress. And he still teaches chemical engineering. To students, Johnson's football career is "ancient history." Still, occasionally a student notices the keepsakes he keeps in a corner of his office, and then realizes that "Professor Johnson" was once a football hero.

Johnson rarely mentions his NFL career in the classroom. But he draws upon his playing days' experiences to emphasize two key lessons: steadfastness and teamwork. He tells students, "Don't ever quit, even if you're beat up, tired, disgusted, and discouraged." For chemical engineering students needing 135 hours to graduate, that's good advice. And teamwork, Johnson says, is something that companies insist students learn. "These students will be stuck on a team of some kind wherever they work, and they may not be the leader. They must learn to adjust."

Johnson was an NFL rarity. Few active pro players have earned a master's and a Ph.D., as he did. After retiring from football in 1975, Johnson eventually launched his own company in Houston: Johnson Compression Services, which devised technologies to "pump" natural gas. In 2000, he returned to NMSU to teach. Rather than try to keep his business going on a part-time scale, he folded it. "I felt obligated to spend time with my students, and I enjoy that." —Thomas K. Grose

 

FEATURES
Above the Fray - By Thomas K. Grose
The Water Guy - By Pierre Home-Douglas
Storm Riders - By Stephen Budiansky
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COMMENTS
CONTRIBUTORS
BRIEFINGS
DATABYTES
Refractions: Answering Mail - By Henry Petroski
TEACHING TOOLBOX
Bioboom: Bioengineering has become one of the fastest-growing majors. - By Margaret Loftus
On Campus: Learning is Legion - By Robert Gardner
Teaching: Necessary Evil - By Phillip Wankat and Frank Oreovicz
Faculty's Finest: Charley Johnson - By Thomas K. Grose
ASEE TODAY: The Making of a President - By Bethany Halford
CLASSIFIEDS
LAST WORD: Too Late for Remediation - By Irving Kott
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