Donald E. Johnson, who was a professor at CSU’s Department of Animal Science for 31 years, fell to his death Thursday, June 29, while hiking Horsetooth Mountain with his family.
Johnson, 67, was a professor of animal nutrition and director of the Metabolic Laboratory at CSU Foothills Campus. Even though he specialized in ruminant nutrition and animal energetics, Johnson had a wide knowledge of numerous animal science fields and departments.
Johnson was a longtime staple and friendly face to his fellow professors on the second floor of the Animal Sciences Building. Assistant Professor of Animal Science Terry Engle says the halls will seem empty without Johnson.
“It’s a shocker, he was top-notch in every way,” Engle said. “It’s a big loss to the whole science department at CSU and even society as a whole.”
Engle had trouble trying to describe what Johnson has meant to the animal sciences community.
“What the hell do you say about a guy who spent his career helping people and trying to make the world better?” Engle said.
Assistant Professor of Animal Science Mark Enns will most remember how Johnson was always willing to help anyone, whether it was a fellow professor or a graduate student.
“I’ll remember him being a very personable researcher who was very knowledgeable about many things,” Enns said.
Johnson was a very dedicated professor who helped many students throughout his four decades at CSU, said Bill Wailes, head of the Department of Animal Science.
“He had a great career; he was here for over 30 years,” Wailes said four days after Johnson’s death. “He had a deep commitment and love for his family.”
Over the last few years, Johnson made a concerted effort to address environmental and global problems that affected the animal science community.
“He was dealing with environment issues that a lot of people were concerned with,” Wailes said. “He was a dedicated person who cared a lot about the world he lived in and the people he knew.”
Some of Johnson’s most well-known work stems from his research into the gaseous emissions from livestock systems. Some of this research has inspired numerous jokes and was even commented on by noted humor columnist Dave Barry. Johnson was well aware of the humor that some people found in this research, Enns said.
“He was very good-natured about his subject,” Enns said. “His wife would even joke about his choice of research to him.”
While most of Johnson’s recent work was focused on greenhouse gas emissions from livestock or agriculture systems, he worked on numerous research projects throughout his life. Over the course of his career, Johnson saw his graduate and postgraduate students go on to write more than 300 published research papers.
“There is not enough paper to write about all the stuff that he has done,” Engle said.
Johnson contributed to research conducted by the National Research Council’s Committee on Animal Nutrition and has participated in workshops held by NATO and the EPA.
Johnson was born in Sykston, N.D., and received his undergraduate and master’s degrees at North Dakota State University. He received his Ph.D. in animal nutrition from CSU.
Public visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. today at Allnutt Drake Chapel, 650 W. Drake Road. His memorial service will be at 10 a.m. on Thursday at Trinity Lutheran Church, 301 E. Stuart St.