SUNY Board of Trustees Appoints Dr. Kristina M. Johnson as the 13th Chancellor

April 24, 2017

Johnson Is A Former Johns Hopkins University Provost, Duke University Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering, & U.S. Under Secretary of Energy

National Academy of Engineers Member and Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee Helped Create the Technology Behind 3D Glasses

Albany – The State University of New York Board of Trustees today announced the appointment of Dr. Kristina M. Johnson as the 13th chancellor of SUNY, the largest comprehensive system of public higher education in the United States.

"Throughout her distinguished career, Kristina Johnson has not only been a faculty member, administrator, and visionary in higher education but also a dedicated public servant, national energy czar, successful entrepreneur, and an acclaimed inventor,” said SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall. "We are thrilled to welcome her to SUNY, where her range of experience will enable her to leverage the incredible work of our 64 colleges and universities. On behalf of the SUNY Board of Trustees and Search Committee, I want to thank Governor Cuomo, whose commitment to public higher education helped us to attract a top candidate, and Nancy Zimpher, whose leadership of SUNY over the last eight years has raised the profile of this position to an all-time high.”

"Dr. Johnson is a proven leader and innovator whose cross-sector experience and strong belief in the power of education will be a great benefit to The State University of New York,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. "In academia, she has brought stakeholder groups together to create and implement strategic vision crafted at the hands of many. On the national forefront, she successfully managed and uplifted our country’s most advanced energy research. And as a former faculty member turned entrepreneur, time and again she has bridged the gap between higher education and business to create programs that prepare students for in-demand careers. The future of SUNY is indeed bright under the leadership of Dr. Johnson.”

"The State University of New York is a complex, captivating system like no other in higher education, and the opportunity to serve as its chancellor is the highest honor of my career,” said Dr. Johnson. "I look forward to building on the excellent foundation for SUNY that Governor Cuomo, Chancellor Zimpher, and the Board of Trustees have developed in partnership with SUNY presidents, faculty, staff, and students as well as the communities they serve in every region.”

Dr. Johnson is the current founder and chief executive officer of Cube Hydro Partners, LLC, which develops hydroelectric generation facilities that provide clean energy to communities and businesses throughout the country. She was appointed by President Barack Obama as U.S. Under Secretary of Energy and served as Johns Hopkins University provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, and professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Throughout her career, Dr. Johnson has been an advocate for women in leadership, advanced STEM and STEAM education, pioneered the creation of jobs through higher education-industry partnerships, established intensive research opportunities for students and faculty, and positioned leading institutions of higher education for greater success through the development of innovative strategic plans.

Dr. Johnson is an inventor and entrepreneur who holds 118 U.S. and international patents. She became a member of the National Academy of Inventors and the National Academy of Engineering in 2016 and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, together with Gary Sharp, in 2015, for the development of polarization-control technologies that enabled high quality 3D movies and TV.

Chancellor Zimpher will step down from the position in June 2017 after an eight-year term during which she has positioned the university system as a national model through an unprecedented partnership with Governor Cuomo. Dr. Johnson’s appointment as chancellor is effective September 5, 2017, at an annual state salary of $560,000. Interim leadership for the period between June and September will be appointed by the SUNY Board of Trustees at its June 21, 2017, meeting.

About Dr. Kristina M. Johnson

Dr. Johnson received her B.S. with distinction, M.S. and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. After a NATO post-doctoral fellowship at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, she joined the University of Colorado-Boulder’s faculty in 1985 as an assistant professor and, later, full professor. From 1994 to 1998, Dr. Johnson directed the NSF/ERC for Optoelectronics Computing Systems Center at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University.

As dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University from 1999 to 2007, Dr. Johnson created intensive student/faculty research partnerships and led a strategic planning process, "Building on Excellence,” which established new cross-disciplinary research programs while also increasing undergraduate enrollment by 20 percent, doubling the number of graduate students, tripling research expenditures, and tripling the university’s physical infrastructure through the design and construction of the world-class Fitzpatrick Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine, and Applied Sciences.

Additionally under her leadership at Duke, endowment increased tenfold under the Campaign for Duke University, and the Blue Devil (Venture) Fund was established to support the Pratt School of Engineering. She worked closely with Pratt School of Engineering faculty and department chairs to increase the percentage of women faculty from 6 to 19 percent, hiring 55 faculty during her term, including 19 early career award winners, one elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and one nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics.

As provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Johns Hopkins University from 2007 to 2009, Dr. Johnson was second-in-charge of the university with direct oversight of the academic operations and budget of nine schools that included leading interdisciplinary programs, academic centers, and institutes. During her term, she led a university-wide strategic planning process, "Framework for the Future,” and bolstered leadership in research, new initiatives, and graduate programs, including the creation of the Mosaic Initiative to recruit outstanding faculty, launch of the Discovery Grant Program for faculty-led initiatives, and management of the university’s ten-year accreditation review.

Named an NSF Presidential Young Investigator in 1985 and a Fulbright Faculty Scholar in 1991, Dr. Johnson’s academic awards include the Dennis Gabor Prize for creativity and innovation in modern optics (1993) and the John Fritz Medal (2008), which is widely considered the highest award in engineering, as previous recipients include Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Orville Wright.

Dr. Johnson was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame (2003) and the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015. She received the Society of Women Engineers Lifetime Achievement Award (2004), the ARCS Foundation Eagle Award for science and education (2009), and the Woman of Vision Award for Leadership by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (2010). She holds 42 U.S. patents, has published 149 referenced papers and proceedings, and received honorary degrees from University of Alabama a Huntsville, Tufts University, McGill University, and Trinity College, Dublin.

Recognized for her work in technology transfer and entrepreneurship by the states of Colorado and North Carolina, she received the 2010 Milton Steward Award from the Small Business Technology Council (SBTC), and is a fellow of the Optical Society of America, International Electronics and Electrical Engineering (IEEE), the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Dr. Johnson is married to Ms. Veronica Meinhard, the Senior Executive Director of Principal Gifts and Senior Associate Athletic Director at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP). Previously, Ms. Meinhard worked for 21 years at the University of Florida in various capacities in University Development and Alumni Affairs.

Statements from Colleagues and Search Committee Members

Michael Castellana, President & CEO, SEFCU, University at Albany ’84, ’92: "Chancellor Zimpher changed the game of higher education not only in New York but at every stop in her career. While she set the table for continued innovation, she leaves enormous shoes to be filled. I am thrilled that, after an exhaustive search, we have found just the combination of person and profession that will not only fill those shoes but run in them. Kristina Johnson is exactly what New York State needs to lead our system and prepare our students for a workforce that desperately needs them.”

SUNY Trustee Marc Cohen, President of the SUNY Student Assembly: "Dr. Johnson exemplifies so many of the core values of SUNY, the values that make us the best at getting better. Out of a field of eminently qualified candidates, she rose above the rest with her sincerity, her incredible candor, and her genuine desire to enhance the overall experience for SUNY's 600,000 students. She’s an engineer, an entrepreneur, an innovator, and an academic. I can think of nobody better to help shape the future of the largest system of public higher education in the country. I’m confident that students have an ally and a friend in Dr. Kristina Johnson.”

John T. Chambers, Cisco Chairman: "I've known Kristina for nearly 20 years. She has been a leader throughout her career, raising the profile of every position she has held from dean of engineering at Duke University, to Under Secretary of Energy, and as a member of our board at Cisco. I’m thrilled to see her return to her passion of education and know first-hand the great asset she will be to SUNY and to New York State.”

David Chang, Former Chancellor, Polytechnic Institute of New York University: "Dating back to our work together at the University of Colorado-Boulder, Kristina has proven to be one of the most visionary, energetic, and creative academic leaders that I have the good fortune to be associated with. Aside from being a world-class researcher and innovator in optoelectronics, her ability to master complex issues while providing a strong leadership to multidisciplinary teams is legendary.”

Robert L. Clark, University of Rochester Provost and Senior Vice President for Research, former Senior Associate Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University: "Kristina is one of the most impressive human beings I’ve met. She brings leadership and compassion to her work with vision and undeniable drive. Whether through government service, academic leadership, entrepreneurial ventures, or corporate engagement, Kristina sets a very high bar for herself and motivates others to enthusiastically follow. The State of New York and the SUNY system should be congratulated in making this appointment. I look forward to personally welcoming her to our great state of New York.”

SUNY Trustee Peter Knuepfer, President of the University Faculty Senate: "Dr. Johnson brings to SUNY a rare combination of experiences – a strong academic background, a period of public service with the Federal government, and a successful career as an entrepreneur in the private sector. She understands higher education, research, and economic development. She has impressed me with her passion for students, her recognition of the challenges that face SUNY and higher education more generally, and her insight into the way that education can become more personalized for students. She will bring great energy and commitment to SUNY.”

SUNY Trustee Eunice Lewin: "Dr. Johnson comes to us with a strong focus on academic excellence, student success, diversity, and inclusion, as well as an expertise in developing public and private partnerships that will serve our students, our system, and New York State well. I was highly impressed with her credentials, experience, and passions for higher education during the interview process. I am very excited for what lies ahead and look forward to working with her.”

Hunter Rawlings, President Emeritus, Cornell University: "I knew Kristina years ago when she was a young professor at the University of Colorado. She was a superb researcher with a strong grasp of academic values and university priorities. Her subsequent career has been outstanding in every respect. Kristina is a great choice to lead SUNY."

Al Roker, Host and Weatherman, NBC’s Today Show, SUNY Oswego ’76: "To have someone as qualified and respected as Kristina Johnson at the helm of the most vibrant state university system in the country shows New York’s commitment to excellence.”

SUNY Trustee Cary Staller, President of Staller Associates, Inc.: "The United States is transitioning into a knowledge/information-based economy, and Kristina Johnson has the expertise and experience to transform SUNY into a system that prepares students to succeed in this new world. Dr. Johnson embodies excellence, hard work, and achievement, and SUNY will benefit greatly from her leadership.”

Adrienne D. Stiff-Roberts, Associate Professor, Duke University: "I am thrilled to learn that Kristina Johnson will be the next chancellor of the SUNY system. As part of her visionary leadership, Kristina brings a deep commitment to advancing women in STEM fields. Having witnessed her efforts to help develop the careers of women in engineering at Duke University, I can attest to the positive impacts of her mentorship, guidance, and advocacy. The SUNY system now can look forward to the benefits of having Kristina working on its behalf.”

SUNY Trustee Nina Tamrowski, President of the Faculty Council of Community Colleges: "The Faculty Council of Community Colleges anticipates building a strong relationship with Dr. Johnson. We look forward to working with SUNY's new, dynamic leader."

Satish Tripathi, President, University at Buffalo: "As a faculty member and scholar, dean, provost, business owner, and Under Secretary of Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy, Dr. Kristina Johnson comes to SUNY with an incredible range of professional experiences that will position her well to lead SUNY as our next chancellor. I look forward to working with Dr. Johnson as we pursue SUNY’s commitment to excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and creative work, and service to the many communities we serve.”

Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers: "We were proud to recommend Dr. Johnson to serve as chancellor and trust she is the right candidate to bring SUNY into a new era. She has great respect for and experience within the academy, research, teaching, and in helping students develop the skills and knowledge they require to be prepared for career and civic engagement.”

Howard Zemsky, Commissioner, New York State Department of Economic Development: "SUNY is an economic driver for the whole state and absolutely vital to upstate. Kristina’s private-sector experience bodes well for industry collaboration and for entrepreneurial activity across New York.”

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2022, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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