Bridge Leader: Howard W. Johnson (2002)
Interviewee: Howard W. Johnson
Interviewer: Clarence G. Williams
Date: June 12, 2002
About the Interviewee
Howard Wesley Johnson was the 12th president of MIT (1966-1971). Johnson "drew upon his management acumen to guide the Institute during the tumultuous late 1960s," according to MIT News. "Johnson gained respect for listening to all sides and for combining progressive views on issues such as Vietnam and the environment with expertise in management. Johnson described those times in his book, Holding the Center: Memoirs of a Life in Higher Education."
Long-lasting changes accomplished during Johnson’s administration include: the creation of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and the Independent Activities Period (IAP); and the change from full-letter grades to pass-no credit for freshmen.
Prior to his presidency, he served seven years as dean of the Sloan School of Management. After his presidency, Johnson served as chair of the MIT Corporation from 1971 to 1983, becoming a Corporation Life Member Emeritus in 1997. He served on numerous governmental panels and as a trustee or director of such institutions as the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Radcliffe College, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Bridge Leadership Program
The Bridge Leadership Program was developed by Clarence G. Williams at MIT.
This program provides perspectives and developments of new insights based on the concept “Bridge Leadership” that emerged in Technology and the Dream: Reflections on the Black Experience at MIT, 1941-1999 (MIT Press, 2001). The concept developed from the investigator’s view as an important element in the educational experiences of black students and faculty members at MIT. It defined a small core of mostly non-black faculty and administrators who worked diligently, along with the limited number of underrepresented faculty and students, to bridge divisions at the university based on race. While this book focused on the black experience, a new phase of the “bridge leadership” concept was broadened over the past nine years to include not only race but culture and ethnicity as well. The project has developed through interaction beyond MIT with over sixty former and current presidents, senior faculty and administrators at 17 major universities and educational institutions. What has surfaced from interviews and fact findings from these institutions (see lists of “bridge leaders” and “bridge leader targets”) is a core of identifiable characteristics associated with “bridge leader” professionals, both faculty and administrators who work to transform their campuses into a more welcoming, nurturing environment for minorities and other individuals from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.