The city council voted unanimously in favor of honoring the world-famous La Jolla oceanographer, who turns 100 on Oct. 19, by placing signs in the 8100 block of La Vereda Street in La Jolla Shores, near where Munk has lived and worked for 78 years.
Terry Kraszewski, a Shores merchant, community planner and longtime friend of Munk, said the idea of honoring him by renaming the boardwalk in his honor, originally grew out of a conversation she had with him about the Shores' boardwalk's history.
“I asked Walter when the boardwalk was built, and he said it was already here when he came to Scripps in 1939,” Kraszewski said, adding renaming it for him seemed an appropriate gesture to observe Walter's centennial celebration.
“He's done so much for our community — and the world,” said Kraszewski adding, “How do you thank someone for a lifetime of work?”
Walter Heinrich Munk, referred to by some as the “Einstein of the oceans,” was born on Oct. 19, 1917. He is a physical oceanographer and professor of geophysics emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.
One of the world's foremost authorities on winds, waves and other projects, Munk has a distinguished list of accomplishments. Those include: being the first person to show why one side of the moon always faces the Earth; pioneering research on the relationship between winds and ocean circulation; investigating irregularities in the Earth's rotation and their impacts on the planet; description of ocean wave behavior while investigating ocean tides; and furthering study of global warming via the relation between changes in ocean temperature, sea level, and the transfer of mass between continental ice and the ocean.
La Jolla activist Bill Robbins, the unofficial “mayor of La Jolla Cove,” who is an admitted “longtime admirer of Walter,” said of him: “He is the greatest physical oceanographer of all time. The only award he hasn't won is the Nobel Prize. And the only reason he hasn't won that award, is because there isn't one for oceanography. His greatest achievement is all the young people he has taught, mentored and inspired all his life.”
Of Munk, 1st District Councilmember Barbara Bry representing La Jolla, said, “Walter Munk is not only a world-renowned geophysicist, but he is a beloved local icon with deep roots in the San Diego community.”
Walter Munk first came to La Jolla in the Summer of 1939, where he had a summer job at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. After completing his PhD in the 1940s, he moved to San Diego permanently and became a professor of geophysics at Scripps. Dr. Munk is a pioneer of geophysical and oceanographic science whose research ranges from predicting the wave conditions for the Allied invasion of Normandy to climate change. The City of San Diego is proud to recognize Dr. Munk by naming a La Jolla Shores street in his honor. Our office has received an outpouring of support for this effort, and we look forward to unveiling the honorary street sign in the community to commemorate Dr. Munk’s 100th birthday this October.
Describing Munk's character, Kraszewski said, “He always take the high ground. He's generous, kind and brilliant. He works every single day on his research papers. He's going to be 100 years old and to have the La Jolla Shores Boardwalk named for him is so fitting.”
Though all the details are yet to be worked out, Kraszewski said Wednesday, Oct. 18, on the day before Munk's 100th birthday, a special ceremony will be held on La Jolla Shores Boardwalk unveiling the commemorative “Walter Munk Way” sign.