Joe Johnson's ten month hiatus from retirement will end July 1, when his term as interim president concludes and he reestablishes himself as president emeritus at The University of Tennessee.
Johnson took office as interim president Aug. 21, 2003, following a controversial resignation of 21st President John W. Shumaker.
Johnson said despite negative publicity in the past, due largely to two past presidents, the university has continued to thrive, bringing in more research grants and private gift dollars and graduating more students than ever before.
Johnson served as UT's 19th president from 1990 to 1999, during which his 21st Century Campaign raised over $430 million for the university.
His first administrative position was as executive assistant to UT President Andy Holt and would mark the beginning of a 39 year career dedicated to The University of Tennessee.
Johnson held many administrative positions, including research associate, vice president for development, chancellor for the Health Science Center in Memphis and executive vice president. Despite this accomplished record, Johnson says his work is far from over.
"I have an obligation as president emeritus... I will help with private fundraising, do alumni talks, teach some graduate courses and do whatever the next president would like for me to do, as long as it doesn't take up too much of my time."
More than 500 students, faculty and alumni attended a reception held May 19 in the University Center Ballroom, honoring Johnson and his wife, Pat Johnson.
Carl A. Asp, professor and director of speech sciences, who worked with Johnson as the NCAA faculty athletic representative and chairman of athletics board from 1992-2000, attended the reception to honor Johnson and thank him for his dedication.
"Working with him was such a joy. He always reached out to the students," Asp said.
"He's the one (president) that got things done when others couldn't. They made it too political. Johnson was able to set the ship in the right direction and people have more faith in the system now."
During a closing speech at the reception, Johnson said he thinks the university will be in good hands when University of Connecticut Provost John Petersen takes office July 1 as UT's 23rd president.
"I think John Petersen, faculty and staff can take a university that is very solid and do a much better job with it," Johnson said.
"The University of Tennessee is a very fine university, but it can be better in terms of how it attracts better students, better faculty and staff. I would like to see the state tax payers make even a greater investment in the university. I think that will be necessary for it to take a real step forward."
Johnson left one piece of advice for Petersen.
"If I had to leave one little message, have a real passion for The University of Tennessee and our outstanding faculty and staff."
Johnson thanked UT's faculty and staff for their hard work and credited the success of the past ten months to their dedication.
Following a roar of applause from onlookers present at the reception, President of Student Government Association Chaz Molder ended with three pieces of advice for Johnson.
"Get some rest, take your wife on a vacation, and lastly, stay close, because you never know when you will be needed again."
UT honors interim president Johnson
Published: Tue Jun 01, 2004 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 06:08 p.m.