Distinguished Professor of Soil Physics and Soil Physicist Emeritus John Letey, Jr passed away on Sunday, September 14, 2014. He was 81 years old.
Letey received his B.S. degree at Colorado State University and his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, then joined the faculty at UCLA in 1959 in the Department of Irrigation and Soil Science. He joined the Department of Soil Science at UCR in 1961 and enjoyed a distinguished career in research, teaching, administration and service at the university. He served as chair of the Department of Soil and Environmental Science from 1975 to 1980, director of the Kearney Foundation of Soil Science from 1980 to 1985 and director of the University of California Center for Water Resources from 1999 to 2003. A full autobiography of his education and professional career can be downloaded from the Department of Environmental Sciences.
Letey was instrumental in establishing the Environmental Sciences undergraduate major at UCR, which was among the first of its kind in the United States.
His research focused on all aspects of water quantity and quality related to irrigated agriculture that provided both applied and basic information critical to establishing sound water resource management. He was a fellow in the Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He authored or co-authored more than 300 technical publications concerning chemical, water, and gas movement through soil. In 2005, he was awarded the Soil Science Society of America’s Soil Science Distinguished Service Award and he received the society’s Soil Science Research Award in 1970.
He retired from UCR in 2002 but continued to participate in soil and water resource research and serve as a consultant.
Letey was an avid painter who created more than 100 works that he gifted to friends and relatives. He also wrote a novel in 2007, “The Folly of Fearing Death” (PublishAmerica, Baltimore).
In 2003, Letey and Ardyth Stolzy, wife of the late Professor of Soil Physics Emeritus Lewis H. Stolzy, combined the Letey Soil Environmental Fund, to which he had contributed, and the Lewis Stolzy Memorial Fund into the Stolzy-Letey Endowment in Soil and Environmental Science. The Stolzy-Letey Fund is now used for the benefit and support of students in the Department of Environmental Sciences.
Dr. Letey is survived by his wife Sonia; three children: Laura Petersen, Don Letey and Lisa Smith; 10 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.