GBA Board Member Spotlight – Kenneth R. Johnston – GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc.

A Road Less Traveled

It will not take long to see that my path to the Geoprofessional Business Association  is quite different from my fellow GBA Board Members. The first indication is that I don’t share the P.E, P. Eng, or P.G. designations that the majority of my GBA friends and business colleagues share. In fact, when I will become GBA’s 51st President in April 2020, I believe I will be the only GBA President to date without any of these designations after my name. This has been the story of my life, as I have always chosen the road less traveled.

I attended Norwich University which is the Nation’s Oldest Private Military School in the Country  founded in 1819.  Proudly, Norwich University has a 200-year history and it is where Reserve Officer Training (ROTC) was founded. I wanted to study at an institution that offered mental, physical and disciplinary challenges while living as part of a Corp of Cadets but was not accepted at my first choice which was the United States Naval Academy (Annapolis). I am grateful for the  education and leadership training that Norwich University provided me and being part of the  University’s long history. Additionally, my Dad was a Captain in the United States Navy and former fighter Pilot who fought in  WWII and the Korean Conflict;  I know succeeding at Norwich University made my parents proud.


I earned a degree in Business Administration with a minor in Computer Science in 1982 which was a personal victory because the graduation rate at Norwich was around 60%. This was due to the rigorous physical demands and the high academic standards. My success at Norwich required drive, passion, and determination that has fueled my almost 40-year professional career. On a daily basis, I am often one of the first to arrive at the office and the last to leave. It has always been this way throughout my career, and I do not know of any other way then to give it my all. While working full time, I continued my education. In 1985 I earned an MBA from New Hampshire College, and in 1994, GZA sent me to executive training classes at Duke’s Fuqua School.

In short, I am an entrepreneur living in a technical world and more than half of my career has been spent at GZA GeoEnvironmental.  I am currently GZA’s Chief Administrative Officer, Bedford District Office Manager, and a Senior Principal. I also serve on the Executive Team of the firm.  In this split role, I have responsibility for the overall management and development of the Bedford, New Hampshire office, while also  being involved in most of GZA’s administrative tasks including the negotiation and execution of all real estate related activities and major acquisitions.

My path to GZA is another road less traveled. I have worked in financial positions for Sanders Associates/Lockheed along with two entrepreneurial stops along the way. One stop was with a small group of investors from Minnesota that formed a start-up company called Storage Investment Management, Inc. This group was involved with all phases of operating and managing mini-storage warehouses across the country. I also spent many years as an owner of Allstate Polyethylene Corporation, a polyethylene packaging company. I would not change the path I have taken as I have enjoyed every moment and cherished all the great people I met along the way.  The road I traveled also helped me to prepare for my leadership roles at both GZA and GBA.

In 2008, Bill Hadge, my former boss, close friend, and CEO at GZA suggested I start my involvement in GBA.  As I began learning about GBA, participating in Committees and attending events; I met and established lifelong friendships with some of the greatest people in our industry while travelling to many interesting places around the country.  The GBA relationships that I developed helped my career in many ways and hardly a week goes by that I am not in contact with a GBA friend and colleague looking for advice on an issue we might be facing.  This sharing of knowledge works well because we have a mutual trust. It is a “two-way street” as we are always willing to share our experiences and provide advice to each other. This is a way of life with GBA members and just one example of the many values this organization provides.

My “work hard, play hard” mantra has been valuable in all parts of my life.  When I am not working, I enjoy all sports and could be considered a sport junky. I have been fortunate enough to have traveled the country and attended numerous  sporting events including Superbowl’s, an NBA championship, World Series, and Stanley Cup games.  I am also an avid bicyclist, having pedaled over 81,505 miles (as of 4-15-2020: Did I mention I am a type A compulsive personality) in the past 30 years. My lifetime goal is to bike along more roads less traveled reaching 100,000-miles before unclipping my cycling shoes and retiring from cycling. As motivation to ride, I annually focus my training on the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC), a 192-mile bike ride from Sturbridge, Massachusetts to Provincetown, Massachusetts.  This annual ride has become a tradition as I have completed the PMC 30 consecutive years, helping to raise money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in the country’s single largest charity fundraiser. I am proud to have raised over $215,000 for cancer research, while the PMC has raised over $717 million since its inception 40 year ago.

Last year, the event raised an incredible record-breaking gift of $63 million. What separates the PMC from other fundraisers is the fact that 100% of rider raised money goes directly to the Dana Farber Cancer institute to help find a cure for cancer. God willing, I hope to stay involved with this event to watch them break the one Billion Dollar mark in donations which should be in the next 5 – 6 years.  I am also proud to have ridden the PMC several times with my two children, Lauren and Jeff who have also raised over $50,000 for this cause.

I have the sincere honor of being on GBA’s Board of Directors since 2015 and currently serve as President-Elect.  My road less traveled also includes serving as a past board member, and coach of many teams for the Stoughton Youth Athletic Club (STOYAC) in Stoughton, Massachusetts. Since March of 2010, I have been given the opportunity to give back to my alma mater as a member of the Board of Fellows. I served as a fellow for the Business & Management School culminating as the Chairman. After that position, I was selected to serve as the Chairman of the Executive Leadership Team overseeing the 96 members that comprise the Board of Fellows from the eight schools within the Norwich University system.

My road less traveled could not have been as enjoyable or as successful without my wife Sherri and our children, Lauren (Bryant University Class of 2011), and Jeff (United States Military Academy at West Point Class of 2015). Both Sherri and I are proud of our children and their spouses. They share my “work hard, play hard” mantra and all of them put it on the line every day for this great country.  My son-in-law Adam is a Boston Police officer and former army soldier that served in Afghanistan. Jeff and his wife Julie, also a West Point graduate 15’, are both Captains in the Army, Blackhawk pilots, and both recently returned from distinguished tours in Afghanistan.  My ultimate hero is my daughter Lauren, who is taking a sabbatical from her professional career to take on a more important role as a Mom to Malcom, our first grandchild and our pride and joy who was born in April 2019.

While my path to become the President of GBA has not been a traditional one, the road I took has been exciting and rewarding with opportunities to explore the scenery around each bend, experience interesting stops along the way, and grow a network of colleagues and friends from many diverse locations that I will cherish for life. When I look back over my career, I have to say that getting involved with the GBA back in 2008 was one of the best and rewarding decisions I  ever made.  I am honored to have the opportunity to serve you.