University Archives

Dr. Kristina M. Johnson

Portrait of Dr. Kristina M. Johnson
Dr. Kristina M. Johnson

Dr. Kristina M. Johnson joined Ohio State as the school’s 16th president in fall 2020, and she dedicated her tenure to enhancing the university’s excellence in five strategic areas: academics, research, service and clinical care, talent and culture, and operations. This included initiatives to double research investment, increase the number of faculty and boost public safety funding while creating pathways to enable undergraduate students to earn their degrees debt-free.

Dr. Johnson had long-standing ties to Ohio State. Her paternal grandfather, Charles Johnson, was a member of the Class of 1896. He played right guard on the football team and, as family lore has it, met Dr. Johnson’s grandmother on the Columbus campus. He went on to work as an engineer with electrical industry pioneer George Westinghouse.

Though she never met her grandfather, who died in the flu pandemic of the early 1900s, Dr. Johnson followed in his footsteps, departing her hometown of Denver, Colorado, to pursue her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering at Stanford University.

She founded the women’s lacrosse team at Stanford, where she also played varsity field hockey and tried out for the U.S. Team in 1978.

After earning her PhD, she traveled to Ireland for a postdoctoral fellowship at Trinity College. She returned home when she was hired as an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder.

In Boulder, Dr. Johnson’s research in optoelectronics paved the way for the creation of several companies. One, ColorLink, pioneered new technology that relaunched the 3D movie industry; it also had life-saving health care applications, improving processes for mammograms and cervical-cancer screenings. This earned Dr. Johnson a place in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, election to the National Academy of Engineering, and the John Fritz medal.

In 1999, she was named dean of Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, and in 2007, she became the senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at Johns Hopkins University. In 2009, she was selected by President Barack Obama to serve as undersecretary of energy in the U.S. Department of Energy.

Dr. Johnson holds 118 U.S. and international patents and has authored nearly 150 refereed papers and proceedings.

In April 2017, Dr. Johnson returned to academia as the 13th chancellor of the State University of New York, the largest comprehensive system of public higher education in the United States.

Over the span of her professional career, Dr. Johnson has received a number of awards and recognitions. She was awarded the inaugural IEEE Mildred Dresselhaus medal in 2021. In 2010, she was given the Woman of Vision Award for Leadership by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. In 2004, she received the Society of Women Engineers Lifetime Achievement Award. She is also the recipient of five honorary doctoral degrees, from the University of Alabama in Huntsville; Tufts University; Trinity College, Dublin; McGill University; and the National University of Ireland, Galway. She also received an honorary associate’s degree from Columbus State Community College.

Dr. Johnson is married to Veronica Meinhard, a higher education philanthropy and administration expert and a former four-time All-American swimmer at the University of Florida.