You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.


Welcome to

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Witt geologist named top professor in Ohio

Springfield educator recognized for ‘learning by doing’ style.

A Wittenberg University geology professor recently named Ohio Professor of the Year won that honor by playing dirty — that is, in Buck Creek and other local waterways.

John Ritter’s classes almost always end up outdoors, learning science by doing science.

“For them,” Ritter said, “it’s an opportunity to do the work they might do professionally.

“The science we do is modest, but it is science. It’s not going to win awards at the Nobel level, but that’s not why I’m in it, either.”

Specializing in geomorphology and environmental geology, Ritter joined the Wittenberg faculty in 1990. His honor on Nov. 14 through the U.S. Professors of the Year awards program — honoring the nation’s most outstanding undergraduate instructors — marks the seventh win for a Witt professor since the program started in 1981.

That’s more than any other four-year institution in Ohio, according to Wittenberg.

“For me, it’s the real deal,” Ritter, 52, said. “You’re judged by panels of experts in education. The submission is no light task.”

By his own admission, Ritter’s teaching style has evolved — perhaps fittingly for a man of science — since his arrival on campus.

“For a new faculty member,” he recalled, “you’re kind of teaching the way you’re taught.”

For Ritter, a Port Clinton native, that meant information was to be disseminated to the students from a textbook by way of a lecture outlined in Roman numerals.

“It didn’t engage me,” he confessed.

Then, like the movement of tectonic plates, two things in the 1990s shifted to shake up Ritter’s teaching style.

One was a change to Wittenberg’s curriculum that stated, “Students should gain an understanding of the natural world through scientific inquiry.”

“That doesn’t mean you’re reading about it in a textbook,” he said.

The other was the start of his family.

With two children, he explained, “It was a lot cheaper to drive to Beaver Creek as opposed to Montana.”

Ritter had regularly gone West to study mountainous watersheds and the factors that cause sediment to change in a semi-arid climate.

“I haven’t been there for years,” he said.

Particularly after his appointment in 1998 to the Clark Soil and Water Conservation District board of supervisors, he decided to stay closer to home to do research, and his students would help.

“It keeps me stimulated,” Ritter said.

In the years since, Ritter and his students have witnessed how parts of Beaver Creek locally have returned to a naturally meandering state with the adoption of conservation practices by some farmers. Before, he said, the creek had been straightened so that farmers could plant right up to its edge.

They’ve also monitored Buck Creek and documented how newly created recreational opportunities on the creek have actually helped restore the urban waterway.

Wittenberg has instruments on a five-mile span of Buck and Beaver creeks to monitor water levels and water quality.

The removal of four lowhead dams in Buck Creek for a whitewater course, he said, have improved the water to the point where it’s become hospitable to the possible migration of high-quality fish like trout.

A federally mandated fix to the city’s generations-old combined sewer overflow system — in which raw sewage mixed with stormwater flows into Buck Creek and the Mad River during heavy rains — will improve quality further, he said.

“That system is going to keep getting better,” Ritter said.

Sky Schelle, the city of Springfield’s stormwater coordinator, graduated from Wittenberg in 2000 with a degree in geology. He decided on his major after taking one of Ritter’s classes.

“I’ve never told him this before, but at that point, Dr. Ritter was like a father figure to me,” Schelle said.

Schelle went on to earn a master’s in environmental science from Ohio University, and has since relied on Wittenberg to feed him a steady string of interns — all of whom possess critical thinking skills, Schelle said, thanks to their time with Ritter.

“A lot of people think scientists are dry. That’s not John at all,” he said. “I loved every class I had with him.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Community News

Woman claims Fitbit burned her arm after it ‘exploded’
Woman claims Fitbit burned her arm after it ‘exploded’

A Wisconsin woman said she suffered second-degree burns on her arm after her Fitbit tracker “exploded” while she read a book, ABC News reported. >> Read more trending news Dina Mitchell said she had owned her Fitbit Flex 2 for about two weeks when the fitness tracking device allegedly caught fire on her arm Tuesday night. "...
Mauling victim, dog both dead in Dayton attack
Mauling victim, dog both dead in Dayton attack

We have confirmed reports the dog and the victim are both deceased.  Police are looking for a dog that attacked a person on Middle Street in Dayton. Police shot the dog, but the dog was able to escape.  Shots have been fired at the scene of a dog mauling in Dayton. Police and medics are responding to a dog mauling on Middle Street...
Heist in South America is ‘robbery of the century’
Heist in South America is ‘robbery of the century’

Authorities are calling a heist in South America the “robbery of the century” after dozens of gunmen stormed a private security firm in Paraguay, CNN reported. More than 50 people carrying large caliber weapons detonated explosives and set vehicles on fire as they stole millions of dollars and sparked a violent police chase into Brazil...
President Trump’s Hollywood star vandalized again
President Trump’s Hollywood star vandalized again

For the second time in less than six months, President Donald Trump’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star has been vandalized, the New York Daily News reported. In October, a 52-year-old man destroyed the star with a pickax and sledgehammer. This time, the Hollywood star was defaced with a black marker and an obscene phrase, according to a photograph...
Highs in the mid-70s today, showers coming Thursday
Highs in the mid-70s today, showers coming Thursday

Tuesday will be another nice day today with more sunshine and warmer temperatures. Warming trend continues through Wednesday Showers, maybe storms Thursday Wet weekend ahead RELATED: County-by-County Forecasts  TODAY: Highs will be in the middle 70s. A few more clouds on Tuesday compared to Monday, but overall it should be pleasant....
More Stories