Ohio State Picks SUNY Chancellor To Be Next President

Jun 3, 2020

The Ohio State University has selected the chancellor of the State University of New York system as the next president. Kristina Johnson was approved by the Board of Trustees on Wednesday morning.

Johnson, who has served as SUNY chancellor for the last three years, is an engineer and was undersecretary of the Department of Energy during the Obama administration.

Johnson is ther first openly gay person to lead the university and the second woman to do so. She's set to begin her tenure on September 1. 

“We are pleased beyond measure to welcome Dr. Johnson to Ohio State,” said board chair Gary R. Heminger in a statement Wednesday. “Her range of knowledge, service and accomplishments across sectors and throughout her career is nothing short of remarkable.

Speaking before a small handful of trustees, Johnson invoked the twin crisis of COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd. She emphasized the school’s role in advancing people from diverse backgrounds.

“Today the American Dream is flickering but is not extinguished," Johnson said. "We need to do all we can to broaden access to young people with great potential from all backgrounds. One of President Drake’s most important legacies has been keeping tuition affordable and investing hundreds of millions of dollars in scholarships.”

Meanwhile, trustees are considering a proposal that would increase tuition by 4% for incoming students. The plan would also raise housing and dining rates by 2.5%. The additional revenue would provide greater support for Pell-eligible students.

"In these difficult times it’s doubly important to be kind to communicate, collaborate, commit to each other and our fellow travelers along this journey, and to take care,” Johnson told trustees.

Johnson's contract will pay her $900,000 a year plus annual performance increntives of up to $225,000. The university will also make $200,000 in unvested contributions as part of her retirement plan. Those contributions vest if Johnson remains employed through the end of her contract. She'll also recieve $50,000 in research support each year, and the university will provide an $85,000 annual stipend in lieu of fringe benefits like a university car.

The contract runs through August 31, 2025 and sets January 1, 2024 as the deadline for extension negotiations.

Johnson previously served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Johns Hopkins University from 2007-2009 and dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University from 1999-2007, according to the SUNY website.

SUNY is the nation’s largest public higher education system, comprised of 64 colleges and universities and has more than 1.3 million students, 30,000 faculty and 90,000 employees.

Johnson replaces Dr. Michael Drake, who is retiring at the end of the month after six years as Ohio State's president.

To find Drake's replacement, Ohio State paid more than $340,000 to the Boston-based search firm Isaacson Miller, under an agreement signed in January.

The presidential search was led by a committee of the Ohio State Board of Trustees, chaired by Lou Von Thaer. Other members include Alex Fischer, Hiroyuki Fujita, Erin Hoeflinger, Brent R. Porteus, Abigail Wexner and John Zeiger, and the process was assisted by a 20-member advisory committee made up of students, faculty, staff and community stakeholders.