Dr. John P. Kempton, PHD Inducted 1997 - Class of 1950

When asked to recount important things that happened to him at Woodward, John Kempton mentioned his participation in several extra-curricular activities. "All this helped give me confidence I could do things and be a contributor." That was an understatement! John's professional accomplishments as a geologist over the past 42 years are too numerous to do justice to in this limited format.

John was actually born in Buffalo, New York. His grade school years were spent in Ohio, where he attended Longfellow and Stickney schools. While attending Woodward, he lived on Avalon Place, "a quiet street of single family homes near Riverside Park."

John's best friends at Woodward were Lewis Brenneman, Andrew Douglas, Jack Jakeway, Richard Johnson and Donald Pentz. WHS teachers played a big part in John's future success because of the personal interest they showed. "I had some wonderful between-class conversations with Betty

Nelson and Belle Joseph. Dorothy Matheny encouraged my using geologic topics and helped my confidence in speaking to an audience. Edith Murphy encouraged me to write my main term paper on a geologic topic, for which I learned to do research and to write. Phyllis Lentz also provided encouragement, and Ethel Kerlin helped provide the discipline in learning to write and use English."

John's favorite high school memories include both the academic aspects, as well as the humorous. He remembers hearing Mr. Howard Phipps laugh during Latin class, and a near disaster in an after-class chemistry lab. Luckily, no one was hurt. He participated in many activities: the Junior Ring Committee, Senior Announcement Committee, membership in the Town Criers and Senior Boys Editor for the Saga. Through these activities, John found that "I could get along with all students, regardless of racial or ethnic background." Years later, when receiving an award for his work on a geographic survey, the presenter described him as one who "has the ability to bring out the very best in those who work with him. . .John's friendliness and infectious laughter endear him to all who meet him and area significant contribution to the overall morale on any project."

After leaving WHS, John pursued an education in geology. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Denison University, a master's degree from Ohio State, and a doctorate from the University of Illinois. His doctoral thesis subject was a study of glacial deposits in a bedrock valley in northern Illinois. John then served as a graduate assistant at Denison and Ohio State and as a geologist with the Ohio Division of Water before joining the Illinois Geological Survey staff in 1956. He has also been a visiting professor of geology at Northern Illinois University.

As a geologist, John Kempton has worn many hats: educator, author, consultant, leader, member of professional organizations, award-winner and public service contributor. He is an expert on groundwater resources and has worked on numerous geologic drillings, surveys and mapping. Consulting geological maps before making land-use decisions helps prevent costly mistakes. Such surveys also assist in locating resources, such as sand and gravel. In the 1980's, during the intensive study to locate a suitable site for the Federal Superconductor Super Collider(SSC), John acted as Leader of the Illinois State Geological Surveys SSC Task Force.

Early in 1993, John retired from the Illinois Geological Survey state agency after 36 years of employment. He relocated to Fairhope, Alabama in 1996 to work on the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, a community-based environmental program, which is administered by the U.S. EPA. He also acts as President of the Alabama Environmental Council, which addresses issues such as conservation of trees and illegal dumping.

John has been quoted as saying, "You do the best darned geology you can and promote its application to meet human needs." John has been successful in this quest, and has often been recognized for his contributions. He received the honorary title of senior geologist emeritus from the Board of Natural Resources and Conservation. In 1988, he received a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Illinois State Geological Survey. He was named in Who's Who in the Midwest in 1994. In 1995, he received the Groundwater Science Achievement Award for his lifetime of public service devoted to "making geological and hydrogeological information more accessible and understandable to regulators, planners and others making decisions affecting or affected by substrate conditions." John has often presented his research and findings to peers, and has been the recipient of numerous research grants and contractors. He was the sole or principal author of 40 of the 71 publications to his credit!

John has used his technical and leadership skills in his community in a variety of ways from Co-President of the PTA to Member of his city s Environmental Advisory Commission.

John has been married to former Woodwardite Betty M. (Crispen) since1954. His son, Keith, works for Social Security in Chicago and daughter, Karen, is a Compliance Archaeologist for the State Historic Preservation Office in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Though still active in geology, John looks forward to walking the white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico or walking the Fairhope, Alabama Municipal Pier that reaches 1/4 mile into Mobile Bay. His current hobby is researching the many historic sites of South Alabama, especially Civil War sites.

John was "overwhelmed" when notified of his election to the WHS Hall of Fame and credits his wife Betty as one who should equally share this honor. "When one has done that which is enjoyed throughout a career, it is doubly rewarding to be recognized as having made a contribution to society."

©2020 Woodward Alumni Hall of Fame

  • Facebook