'Where Are They Now?' featuring SNR alum Ron Block

Ron Block with wife Diana. They met and married in the Dominican Republic in 1985. (Courtesy photo)
Ron Block with wife Diana. They met and married in the Dominican Republic in 1985. (Courtesy photo)

In 1976, Ron Block left the East Coast to pursue his graduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

It didn't take long for him to become fully entrenched in life as a Cornhusker.

"Although I only spent two years in Lincoln and three years in Nebraska, this was a transcendent time of my life," Block said. "I totally bought into Husker Culture. I participated in many activities – from football games and pep rallies to adopting Runzas and Valentino pizzas into my food choices."

Block studied physical geography and climatology. Among his advisers were Merlin Lawson, Norman Rosenberg and a newly hired Ken Dewey.

"The faculty were very accommodating and flexible in guiding my curriculum," he said. "The wide range of coursework supplemented by various applied fields like agronomy allowed me to understand meteorology from many viewpoints."

Block took courses like "Climate Chance," "Dynamic Climatology" and "Bioclimatology." He also taught a lab section of "Introduction to Physical Geography."

"Teaching the lab helped develop and sharpen my organizational and communication skills, which were essential for advancing my career," he said. "UNL provided an excellent environment to grow both as a student and as a person."

After earning his master's degree in 1978, Block spent a year as an instructor in meteorology, geology and physical geography at Doane College in Crete, followed by a one-year stint as an air pollution meteorologist in California.

Then it was time to go global.

"I served in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean for five years in the Peace Corps and with the U.S. State Department," Block said.

His roles abroad involved everything from agricultural meteorology to teaching to practicing weather forecasting.

"My career began to fully take shape overseas where I was working way out of my comfort zone," he said. "I had to challenge myself every day to be effective and to grow as a person and as a professional."

In 1987, Block joined the National Weather Service. He worked as a senior weather forecaster for the agency in four locations: New York City, Phoenix, San Juan and Tallahasse, Florida.

"My weather service career was largely centered on the daily issuance of forecasts and timely issuance of warnings for hurricanes, tornadoes, severe storms and floods in a myriad of climates," he said.

Block also served as an outreach and EEO coordinator in all four offices.

"That involved promoting weather as a career and discussing weather safety at schools and with senior citizen groups," he said.

The most challenging aspect of his NWS job was the rotating shift work.

"The weather never takes a vacation," Block said. "You're always on call. You're forecasting and issuing weather warnings under very stressful scenarios, aware that mistakes could lead to fatalities and property damage."

Although the stakes were always high, knowing that his efforts directly saved lives was a "great satisfaction."

Block retired from the NWS in 2014. Now more than a year into retirement, he remains active with the Nebraska Alumni Association. As a current Tallahassee resident, he often talks with prospective students in Florida and Georgia about attending UNL.

"The world has become much smaller and more global since I graduated," Block said. "Students should be willing to expand their horizons, leave their comfort zones and consider jobs and locations that they normally would not consider."

He advises students to seek volunteer and leadership positions while in school with clubs on or off campus. He also suggests taking more applied courses and learning a foreign language.

"Look for non-traditional opportunities," he said. "That is what prospective employers are looking for, much more so than your GPA."

Any current, prospective or former students interested in weather – especially in a career with the NWS – are invited to contact Block at ronblock53@gmail.com.

— Mekita Rivas, Natural Resources

More details at: http://go.unl.edu/ximu