In Memoriam: Howard W. Johnson


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution notes with deep sorrow the death on December 12, 2009, of Life Trustee and Honorary Member, Howard W. Johnson.  Dr. Johnson served as a Trustee from 1972 to 1976, was elected an Honorary Trustee (now known as Life Trustee) in 1994, and also served as a Member of the Corporation from 1972 to 1993 before election as an Honorary Member.  He was a member of the Nominating Committee from 1990 to 1992, serving as chair from 1991 to 1992. 

Howard Wesley Johnson was born July 2, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois.  He received his BA from Central College in Chicago in 1943 and his MA from the University of Chicago in 1947.  Upon graduation, Howard was a faculty member of the University of Chicago from 1948 to 1955, when he left to become Associate Professor of Management and Director of the Sloan Fellowship Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  Dr. Johnson was Professor and Dean of the Sloan School of Management from 1959 to 1966, when he became the 12th President of MIT, serving in that capacity until 1971 when he was appointed Chairman of the Corporation; he served as Honorary Chairman from 1983 to 1990. 

Dr. Johnson’s place in WHOI’s history is primarily marked by his proud role in helping to establish the joint graduate degree program between WHOI and MIT that began in 1968.  Remembering that effort in 1991, he noted that, together with the late Dr. Paul M. Fye, Director of WHOI from 1958 to 1977, they “spent substantial time working through the protocol and especially the agreement with both sets of trustees.  In MIT’s case, that was the first time such a momentous step had been taken since the early decades of the century, when a joint engineering degree was given by Harvard and MIT.” 

During his career, Howard had served as a Trustee or Director of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (former Chairman of the Board); Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Honorary Life Trustee); Wellesley College; Champion International Corporation; J.P. Morgan & Co.; Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; Radcliffe College; John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company; E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company; and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  Dr. Johnson’s remarkable public service record also included membership on the National Commission on Productivity, the National Manpower Advisory Committee, the U.S. President’s Advisory Committee on Labor-Management Policy, and the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Massachusetts General Hospital.  He was at various times a member of the President’s Circle of the National Academy of Science; the American Philosophical Society; and the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Howard and his wife of 59 years, Elizabeth “Betty” J. (Weed) Johnson, lived in Lexington, Massachusetts.  In addition to his wife Betty, he is survived by three children: Stephen A. Johnson; Bruce H. Johnson; and Laura A. Johnson, a WHOI Member of the Corporation; and three grandchildren


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