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Jon Hathaway: Love of nature unites work, free time

Jon Hathaway and his wife, Amy, hold their children, Quinn (left) and Rhys (right).

Jon Hathaway and his wife, Amy, hold their children, Quinn (left) and Rhys (right).

At UT: Having joined UT in 2013, Hathaway has become a sought-after expert on uban water sustainability. He is an expert on storm runoff and the impact it has on cities and on public health, as well as “green infrastructure,” which is the concept of using natural means to control storm water. He earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering before obtaining both his master’s degree and doctorate in biological and agricultural engineering, all at North Carolina State University.

Why he chose this field: As the son of a pastor, Hathaway moved a lot as a child, attending three high schools in three states and eventually graduating from tiny Tar Heel High School in North Carolina as part of a class of about 60.

He considered becoming a bridge designer and builder, but his love of the outdoors led him to environmental engineering.

His last-minute decision to attend graduate school altered both his professional and personal life.

In grad school, Hathaway and his wife went from being friends to becoming engaged while they both developed a keen interest in sustainable engineering.

“My wife, Amy, is actually the person who introduced me to the idea of green infrastructure and the issues of urban storm runoff. She was a semester ahead of me and was researching green roofs for her master’s degree. She would tell you I ‘followed’ her from the civil engineering department to the biological and agricultural engineering department for grad school, but I dispute that claim to this day.”  Hathaway laughed. “However, I will say she got a lot of free labor out of me on her green roof project, since I was trying to get a date.”

Jon Hathaway’s selfie at the rim of a canyon in Utah.

Jon Hathaway’s selfie at the rim of a canyon in Utah.

Outside interests: Traveling. A look around his office bears that out, with posters, photos and trinkets ranging from Australia to various U.S. national parks lining the walls. The parks, in particular, hold a special place for Hathaway.

“We love traveling, hiking, camping. Our most memorable trip was to Glacier National Park, but Arches, the Smokies, Yosemite—they are all special.”

Favorite book or movie: “Since we’ve had kids (4-year-old daughter, Quinn, and three-month-old son, Rhys) it would probably be kid-related, maybe something by Sandra Boynton.”

Favorite music: “Probably Indie Rock would be my favorite. I love Band of Horses, who was just here in Knoxville. Phoenix. Death Cab for Cutie, Fleet Foxes has a new album I’m looking forward to.”

Favorite food: “Pizza is just the perfect food, and wherever you travel you can always find a solid slice.”

One last thing:  While Hathaway once considered a future in art, he now thinks if he hadn’t been an engineer he would have likely gone into something in the medical field.

“I have joked with my wife about going back for another degree in medicine, but I have probably been in school long enough already.”

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