COLUMBUS, Ohio — The chancellor of New York’s public university system will become Ohio State University’s next president as both institutions confront logistical and financial uncertainty from the coronavirus pandemic.
Kristina Johnson, an engineer and former undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, is leaving the State University of New York after nearly three years and will start her new role Sept. 1. Ohio State trustees voted Wednesday for her appointment.
Johnson, 63, told trustees she thinks the university’s motto, Education for Citizenship, “has never been more relevant” as the country faces the pandemic as well as protests in response to the Minneapolis death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white police officer pressed a knee on Floyd’s neck.
Johnson will continue her duties at SUNY until the system’s trustees appoint an interim leadership structure, according to a statement from the system.
The president of SUNY’s faculty union, Frederick Kowal, said in an emailed statement that he was dismayed by the timing of Johnson’s departure as that system navigates the pandemic’s impact but wished her well.
Johnson succeeds President Michael Drake, who has led Ohio State since 2014. His tenure included strategic successes such as record graduates and donor support, but was complicated by scandals involving the marching band, a prominent football coach and a former team doctor accused of sexual abuse.
Drake, an ophthalmologist by training, announced last year that he would step down. He said he felt it was the right time but intends to remain on the faculty.