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SUNY Chancellor Named Next Ohio State President

June 4, 2020

The State University of New York system’s chancellor of about three years, Kristina M. Johnson, is leaving to become president of Ohio State University.

Ohio State appointed Johnson its next president yesterday. She’ll begin there Sept. 1.

Johnson started at SUNY, a 64-institution system with more than 400,000 students in degree-granting programs, in April 2017. A news release from the system credited her with helping coordinate its response in Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the island, with launching an effort to diversity the system’s faculty, with cutting the number of students requiring remediation, and with a rise in two-year graduation rates.

“Dr. Johnson has led SUNY with a deep commitment to providing access and opportunity, while ensuring a premier high-quality education for all our students and propelling our university system to new national heights and recognition,” Merryl H. Tisch, SUNY board chair, said in a statement. “We join all New Yorkers in thanking Dr. Johnson for her service and her tireless commitment to issues of equity and excellence, and we wish her the very best on her new opportunity as president of Ohio State University.”

Johnson also oversaw SUNY during a high-pressure time as it put in place New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship, a high-profile free tuition program. Implementation of the program hit a snag in 2018 when system financial aid administrators asked for more guidance, prompting Johnson to say their statements were creating “unnecessary confusion and are not productive in ensuring that this scholarship benefits as many students as possible.” But the state ultimately issued additional guidance as Johnson struck a more conciliatory tone.

The leader of a union representing SUNY academic and professional faculty members issued a statement expressing dismay and disappointment at the timing of Johnson’s departure. SUNY is navigating reopening campuses shut down by the coronavirus even as the pandemic disrupts its financial situation, said Frederick E. Kowal, president of United University Professions.

“SUNY desperately needs steady leadership as campuses plan for the fall,” he said in his statement. “We had high hopes for Chancellor Johnson when we welcomed her to SUNY in 2017. While we are dismayed at the timing of her departure, we wish her well in her next endeavor.”

At Ohio State, Johnson takes over for Dr. Michael V. Drake, who has been president since 2014. Drake announced in November that he would be retiring.


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