his Life

Larry's Life in His Own Words

Larry wrote this when he was featured in the East Nashville High Alumni News after being awarded the Rose-Hulman Award in 2014.

Reflections by Larry Canter, PhD

I begin my remarks by acknowledging Ms. Katherine Atkinson, my English teacher at East Nashville High during my senior year (1957). Ms. Atkinson always encouraged her students to go to college; and she routinely sought out scholarships to help them along. I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to Vanderbilt where I majored in Civil Engineering. Several other classmates also went to Vanderbilt; for example, Ann Smithson and Layton Guinn. Over the four years at Vanderbilt I began to think about a career in teaching and research at the University level.

After graduating cum laude from Vanderbilt (1961), I attended the University of Illinois to pursue a Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Again, I had help and encouragement from my advisor at Vanderbilt, Dr. Peter Krenkel, who influenced my receipt of another scholarship. I graduated with an MS degree in 1962.

The most important event in my life occurred when I was at Illinois – I met Donna Johnston from Oklahoma. She also graduated from the University of Illinois in 1962. Soon afterward we were married (August 25, 1962) and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. I volunteered to be in the U.S. Public Health Service (to fulfill my military obligation) and had opportunities to teach in the field of radiation and the environment.

After 2.5 years in the USPHS, I applied to the University of Texas in Austin, to work on a PhD degree and was awarded a full fellowship by my advisor, Dr. Earnest Gloyna. I continued to study and work in environmental fields such as Air Pollution Control, Water and Wastewater Treatment, Solid Waste Management, and Environmental Laws and Regulations. By the way, our first son (Doug) was born in 1964, I received my PhD degree in Environmental Health Engineering in 1967.

From 1967 to 1969, I taught as an Assistant Professor in the Civil Engineering Department at Tulane University in New Orleans. These formative years allowed me to gain experience in advising students, seeking research funding, and presenting papers at conferences. Also, our second son (Steve) was born in 1967.

In 1969, our family moved to Norman, Oklahoma where I was an Assistant Professor in the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science. Further, our third son (Greg) was born in 1972.

As my career unfolded at OU, many positive things began to occur. I was appointed as Director of the School in 1972 and continued in the position until 1979. I was also promoted to Associate Professor in 1972 and to Professor in 1977. These years were filled with teaching graduate-level courses in environmental engineering and science, in receiving research grants from outside sponsors, in preparing research reports and peer-reviewed journal articles, and conference presentations.

Over the years from the 1980s to 2000, I was the recipient of numerous awards at OU; some examples are:

  • Outstanding Faculty Achievement in Research, College of Engineering, 1982.
  • Regent’s Award for Superior Accomplishment in Research, 1983.
  • George Lynn Cross Research Professor, 1993.
  • Sun Company Professor of Ground Water Hydrology, 1984; and Sun Company Chair of Ground Water Hydrology, 1995.
  • Regent’s Award for Superior Accomplishment in Professional and University Service, 1999.
During the above years and even until today, I have continued writing research reports, journal articles, and several books and book chapters. I also attend yearly meetings of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) at locations around the world.

When I retired from OU in August, 2000, I decided to phase out of my work. However, it has not worked. I still teach professional short courses in the USA and internationally. I also work on environmental impact studies. I have written several textbooks/professional books; the most widely known book is Environmental Impact Assessment (which has been translated in several languages). Further, I am wrapping up a book entitled Cumulative Effects Assessment and Management (to be available in May or June of this year).

A particular honor occurred in May, 2009. I received the Rose-Hulman Award from IAIA; this reward recognized my sustained contributions world-wide on methods for addressing environmental impacts, including cumulative effects.

I want to close these ramblings by thanking God for His blessings throughout my life. I also thank Donna, my wife and friend for 52+ years, for her support and encouragement in my many endeavors.Our three sons are now practicing engineers, each with outstanding wives (Carrie, Coley, and Jamie); also we have eight grandchildren. Our oldest (Haley) is a sophomore at the University of Texas and our other grandchildren (Jackson, Allison, Audrey, Avery, Madelyn, Cole, and Jake) are busy in sports, music, drama, etc. We are truly blessed!