Once Rick Johnson figured out he wanted to be an architect, various bents and events over his lifetime all added up.
His father liked to tell a story of how Johnson, as a boy, would take things apart and put them back together. Johnson once did that with a toy of his sister’s, which his father couldn’t reassemble, but Johnson could.
And then there were the times when he was a teenager living in Maryland and extended family would fly into Washington, D.C., for visits. Johnson always would volunteer to pick them up. Dulles International Airport was brand new, and he fell on every opportunity to check out the building.
Ultimately, Johnson, who’s a principal with Frankfurt-Short-Bruza Associates, fortuitously found his career path as a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma.
From his fifth-floor offices at 5801 Broadway Extension, Johnson, 59, sat down with The Oklahoman on Tuesday to talk about his life and career. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Tell us about your roots.
A: My parents met at dental school at Temple University in Philadelphia. My father joined the U.S. Navy during the Korean War and served 20 years as a dentist. My mother worked as a dental hygienist until she had children; I’m the oldest of four, born over five and half years. I have a sister in Tulsa, a brother who’s a geologist with Sandridge Energy, and another outside Salt Lake City, where he works as a pilot for Delta Airlines.
Q: So you were a Navy brat and lived all over. How was that?
A: Mainly, we lived on the East and West Coasts. I loved experiencing a lot of different things. Because we moved every two to three years, I learned to be more outgoing and social than I’m sure I’d be otherwise. But I envied my friends who had roots.
Q: What do you remember of your various hometowns during your childhood?
A: When I was in the sixth grade, in 1966, we lived in Alameda, Calif. I don’t remember much about the counter-culture revolution, but I do remember the climate was great. When I was in the seventh and eighth grade, we lived in Naples, Italy, in an apartment up on a ridge on the bay, with a beautiful view of the active volcano Mount Vesuvius.
We’d take city buses down to the USO where the sailors shot pool, and there was a great hole-in-the-wall pizzeria across the street. I attended one of three American schools in Italy. From ’70 to ’73, we lived in Rockville, Md., where I played offensive and defensive line on the football team, rode my bike everywhere and fished off Virginia Beach.
Q: How did you settle in Oklahoma?