Colleagues, family and friends of George Benton packed the Johns Hopkins Club on Oct. 20 as they gathered to remember Benton, professor emeritus of earth and planetary sciences, and posthumously award him the President's Medal of The Johns Hopkins University.
Benton, a pioneer in meteorological research, former dean of Arts and Sciences, and former vice president of the Homewood campus, died on Oct. 16 of cancer. He was 82.
"There is so much to remember about George," remarked Benton's close friend Owen Phillips, professor emeritus of earth and planetary sciences and a speaker at the event. "There is so much not to forget and to be thankful for. We mourn his passing, but we celebrate the life that he lived."
At the ceremony, speakers remembered Benton as a brilliant researcher, visionary leader, fearless problem solver and the champion of changes in meteorology that are essential to modern techniques of weather forecasting.
Bestowing the President's Medal, Provost Steven Knapp read the citation from President William R. Brody, which said:
"Over an association of more than half a century with Johns Hopkins, your spirit, your talent and your dedication have worked their way into the very fabric of the place. Your department, your school, the Homewood campus and the university itself--none would ever have been quite the same, or quite so good, without your longstanding and steady influence.
"You are a scientist of the first order, and a superb teacher and mentor. Your legacy would have been assured with those magnificent contributions, but you did far more. You served with great distinction as dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences, and then as vice president for the Homewood divisions. In those roles, you built and preserved the infrastructure--academic, administrative, financial and physical--that made it possible for your faculty colleagues and their students to discover, to learn and to thrive.
"George S. Benton, you are the personification of that intangible something that makes Johns Hopkins so different and so very special. In recognition of decades of distinguished and devoted service as a member of the faculty and university leader, I am proud to confer upon you the President's Medal of The Johns Hopkins University."
Benton was born in Oak Park, Ill., on Sept. 24, 1917. As an analyst for the Pentagon during World War II, he studied the effects of wind on B-29s, research that eventually led to a better understanding of the jet stream.
A former president of the American Meteorological Society, Benton received his doctorate in meteorology at the University of Chicago in 1947. He came to Hopkins a year later, and with the exception of two three-year periods when he served with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, he spent his professional life at Hopkins.
During his 40-year career, Benton helped create the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, as well as the Mechanics Department. In 1970 he became dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and in 1972 was appointed vice president for Homewood divisions.
Speakers at the reception credited Benton's quiet but forceful leadership as a pivotal factor in bringing the campus through troublesome times.
"He took over at a time of problems, and he had the courage and relentless determination to solve them," said Phillips. "He enjoyed to a remarkable degree the confidence of his faculty."
Benton continued to be active at Hopkins after his retirement in 1988. He recently had been involved in a movement to centralize environmental research activities at the university.