Engineering Spotlight: Robert Johns

Nominate an engineer you know!  Email Dan Kelley at dkelley@michmab.com.

RobertJohns_275Robert Johns is a Contract Engineer at the facilities of the School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts at Central Michigan University WMHW-FM HD1 and HD2 and Moore Hall Television (MHTV) PEG channel 34 on campus, 189 in Mt. Pleasant and outside communities.

Robert was nominated for the Engineering Spotlight by Dr. Peter Orlik, Director, CMU Broadcast & Cinematic Arts, who comments “Robert’s position is a bit unconventional, but I think it indicates the level of expertise and commitment we all look for in engineers. After many years at Dow, Robert set up his own engineering consulting firm. Since 2010, he has worked as contract engineer for the School of Broadcast & Cinematic Arts here at CMU. In this capacity, he is responsible for the facilities of two FM radio stations, a cable television station, an audio recording studio that services its own record label, two television studios and a multitude of labs and production suites. This is clearly a wide and unusual span of responsibilities and is critical to the operations of the School of BCA, its 340 undergraduates, 60 graduate students and 17 faculty. I think this is the type of dynamic engineering that deserves recognition.

Q: Please share with us a brief engineering resume.
Robert:  
Not a “typical” broadcast engineer, I spent almost all of my career in industrial video. I attended Delta College Broadcasting, WUCM-TV 19 and was a student employee. Started at the “new” Gerity Cablevision system (now Charter) headend operations in Bay City. Then on to Dow Chemical Corporate Communications internal studios for 35+ years as a freelancer, then employee, then contractor; built 3 video production facilities, built a 4.5m Andrew uplink dish and ran an 80-site BTV satellite network with downlinks from Van Nuys, CA to Athens, Greece. Began working at CMU’s School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts as a contract engineer in 2010. I’ve seen 1” and 2” B&W Ampex, SONY 1” color, ¾” U-Matic and BVU, BetaCam and DVcam, and now SD card.

Someday, I’m going to really retire. It’s been a great ride.

Q: How did you get started in broadcast engineering?
Robert:  “Being in the right place at the right time,” and having great mentors. At Delta they couldn’t keep me out of Master Control and I asked a lot of questions. Cliff Saladine, Chief Engineer, was very patient and we spent a lot of time together in MCR. Gerity Cablevision asked Delta Broadcasting if they knew someone who could assist them in headend operations. I was Stage Managing an industrial show for Dow Chemical at the Midland Center for the Arts when Dow was looking for someone for their new industrial video production facility. I built the Dow facility with Pete Petroski, and renovated it years later with John Israel. At Central Michigan BCA, I work with support from Wayne Henderson, Pat Hanlon, Mark Brown and others at WCMU PBS.

Q: Tell us something about yourself that very few people know…
Robert:  I asked for a Swiffer WetJet for my birthday.  I thought it would come in handy cleaning up spills on my new ceramic tile floor in front of my newly remodeled basement bar.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Robert:  A good friend said “Why don’t you ask Sue out on a date?”… Our first date was October 6, I proposed December 10 and were married the following July 11. That was 35 years ago!

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