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Next Arts and Sciences Speaker Series topic: Helping more than 100,000 displaced people

"Houston, we have a problem!"


This was the tagline for the 1995 movie, "Apollo 13."

Little did anyone know that 10 years later, some people would utter the phrase again as Hurricane Katrina ferociously lashed New Orleans and its surroundings, forcing thousands of people out of their homes. More than 100,000 evacuees fled to Houston, many of them with no possessions except the clothes they wore.

While some Houstonians saw the overnight population boom as problematic, others saw it as an opportunity to open their arms, hearts and pocketbooks to help their Louisiana neighbors.

As Houston's director of finance and administration, Judy Gray Johnson played a major role in the massive relocation efforts. As part of New Mexico State University's College of Arts and Sciences' speaker series, Johnson will show how governments and community organizations, working together in crisis mode, can efficiently and effectively handle catastrophes. She will provide insights into best practices and lessons learned by Houston's successful efforts and also will discuss the longer term impacts on the Houston community and the roles of various levels of government in disaster response.

Johnson's presentation will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 9, in the Creative Media Institute's Digital Media Theatre in Milton Hall. Her talk is open to the public.

Johnson is no stranger to NMSU. After spending her first three years at NMSU, she earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of Houston. Last year, she and her husband, Michael Johnson, established the first endowed chair in the NMSU College of Arts and Sciences with a $1 million gift to the Department of Geological Sciences.