Public Release: 

The Oceanography Society dedicates journal issue to URI Dean John Knauss

University of Rhode Island

Not many people have seen Dr. John Knauss at a loss for words, but he was speechless on Saturday when presented with the current issue of the journal Oceanography, specially published by The Oceanography Society (TOS) as a tribute to his accomplishments as a scientist, an educator, an administrator, a leader, and a gentleman.

Knauss, who was dean of the URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) from 1962 to 1987, was unaware that TOS was going to honor him in this way.

"There have been several times in the past when something has been planned for me that I have had an inkling about," said Knauss, "but this is not one of those times."

During a short presentation ceremony at the Coastal Institute Building on the URI Narragansett Bay Campus, Richard Spinrad, editor of Oceanography and technical director for the Oceanographer of the Navy, presented Knauss with the first copy of issue 14-2 of the prestigious professional journal. In addition to Spinrad, guests included URI Provost Beverly Swan, National Science Foundation associate director of geosciences Margaret Leinen (former president of TOS and former GSO dean), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution senior scientist Kenneth Brink (former President of TOS and the person who conceived the idea for the special issue), former URI President Frank Newman, and GSO interim dean James Yoder.

"John Knauss is an ubiquitous icon," said Spinrad. "Anyone reading this magazine has either met, worked with, or had their career impacted by Dr. Knauss. He is also a bridge whose career is a remarkable link for the oceanographic community. He brings a personal knowledge regarding the historical perspectives of the birth of the Office of Naval Research, the Law of the Sea, the Stratton Commission, and individuals whose names are the history of modern oceanography.

"John Knauss' name is synonymous with the most successful fellowship program ever developed in the oceanographic community: the Dean Knauss Sea Grant Fellowship," added Spinrad. "The outstanding alumni of this program now populate some of the United States' most influential offices of policy and program in the oceanographic community--and are known by many as 'Knauss Fellows.'"

The issue, with an introduction by Leinen, contains articles on topics of interest to Knauss, including currents of the equatorial Pacific, the Law of the Sea, graduate education in oceanography, the Stratton Commission, and the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS).

Knauss became GSO's first dean in 1962. At that time, there were only a few buildings, and a handful of faculty and students. When he left in 1987 for Washington to head the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), his vision and leadership had built GSO into one of the top ten oceanographic institutions in the country.

One of the founders of the national Sea Grant program, Knauss has received numerous honors, appointments, and awards. In 1988, an act of Congress changed the Sea Grant Fellowship Program to the Dean John A. Knauss Fellowship Program. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, and the Marine Technology Society. He has been President of the Association of Sea Grant Program Institutions, Chairman of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), and a founder of the Law of the Sea Institute.

More than a decade after his official retirement from URI, Knauss continues to serve the oceanographic community. He was recently appointed chair of the U.S. Ocean Research Advisory Panel of the National Ocean Partnership Program (NOPP).


Knauss and his wife of 46 years live in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, in the summer and LaJolla, California, in the winter.

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