Johnny Webster Ponds


Johnny Webster Ponds, 85, a retired Air Force mathematician and the former chairman of the mathematics department at Bowie State University who helped establish its computer science program, died of cancer June 22 at his home in Washington.

At Bowie State, Mr. Ponds rose from associate professor of math, to department chairman, to acting associate dean for academic affairs, to special assistant to the vice president for academic affairs. Upon his retirement, the university named its Computer Science Study Center after him.

He coordinated the establishment of the school's dual degree in engineering and mathematics with George Washington University and the University of Maryland at College Park in 1976, and served as its director.

Bowie State awarded him a presidential proclamation in 1994, and the state gave him a governor's citation in 1995.

Mr. Ponds was born in Prosperity, S.C., and at an early age moved with his family to Spartanburg, S.C. He earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from what was then called North Carolina A & T State College in 1940.

During World War II, he was a commissioned officer in the Army Corps of Engineers and served in the South Pacific. Upon discharge, he earned a master's degree in math from Howard University. He later completed graduate studies in mathematics at American University and taught as an instructor of mathematics at West Virginia State College from 1947 to 1951.

In 1951, Mr. Ponds moved his family back to Washington, when he accepted a position with the Air Force Technical Applications Center. He worked as a senior mathematician for the next 21 years, and retired as a supervisory mathematician in 1972. He then went to work at Bowie State.

Mr. Ponds was a member of the Fort Dupont Civic Association and for several years served as board treasurer of the Southeast Crisis Pregnancy Center. He was a former president of the Kiwanis Club of Capitol Hill, which recognized him with the Hixon Award and Tablet of Honor. In 1994, he was awarded the Caritas Award by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Mr. Ponds was a member of the Church of the Atonement since 1951, where he served as senior warden, and member of the Vestry, Men's Club and Brothers of St. Andrew. He was a member of the Officers' Club at Bolling Air Force Base.

He was preceded in death by two sons, James Ponds in 1946 and David Ponds in 1977. Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Annie Green Ponds of Washington; children John Ponds of Pittsburgh, Elizabeth Ponds Burkes of Randallstown, Md., Thomas Ponds of Oakland, Calif., Deborah Ponds of Detroit, and Richard Ponds, Katherine Ponds, William Ponds and Margaret Ponds, all of Washington; a sister; and six grandchildren.