Joe Johnson (’60, ’68)

Category: Awards | Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna

2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award Winner

One of the university’s most dedicated servants, Joseph E. Johnson is president emeritus of UT. He has spent more than 50 years in various roles throughout university administration, including assignments in alumni relations, public relations, fundraising, governmental relations, campus planning, capital construction, and as liaison between the president’s office and intercollegiate athletics. He served for three years as vice president for business and finance, along with executive vice president and vice president for development, before becoming president of UT from 1990 to 1999.

Johnson received his BA in history from Birmingham-Southern College in 1955 before serving as a sergeant in the US Army from 1956 to 1958. After his tour of duty, he attended UT for both of his postgraduate degrees, including an MA in public administration and an EdD in higher education and industrial management.

Numerous honors have been bestowed on Johnson. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi and has received the UT Press Award of Appreciation; the Muddy Boot Award from the East Tennessee Economic Council; the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award; the Leadership Knoxville Distinguished Alumnus Award; the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences Distinguished Alumnus Award; and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the UT Board of Trustees. He has been named a Prometheus Leader by the UT Center for Educational Leadership and is one of UT’s 100
Distinguished Alumni.

Johnson serves or has served on the boards of numerous organizations including UT Medical Center, South College, the Pat Summitt Foundation, the Museum of Appalachia, Home Federal Bank of East Tennessee, the Helen Ross McNabb Mental Health Center, and Knox Area Rescue Ministries.