New York Chancellor

Johnson

The State University of New York has a new leader. 

Dr. Kristina Johnson, an engineer and inventor who served as undersecretary of energy in the Obama administration, was appointed Monday to become SUNY's 13th chancellor. She will succeed Nancy Zimpher, who's stepping down in June after eight years as head of the state university system. 

H. Carl McCall, chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees, said Johnson's appointment followed a nine-month international search for Zimpher's successor. The search committee included SUNY trustees and outside experts. 

McCall highlighted Johnson's experience in academia, business and government service. She was dean of Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering from 1999 to 2007. She then served two years as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Johns Hopkins University.

In 2009, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as undersecretary of energy. She later founded Enduring Hydro, a hydropower-centered energy firm. 

"We found someone who's been a leader in all of those sectors," McCall said. 

Johnson earned her doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University. She has received numerous awards for her work in optical engineering, including the John Fritz Medal in 2008. A holder of 42 U.S. patents, she was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in 2003 and the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015.

Her credentials impressed the trustees. Before Monday's vote, many of the board members discussed the breadth of her resume. 

Marc Cohen, a trustee and president of the SUNY Student Assembly, lauded the incoming chancellor.

"Truly, Dr. Johnson is the whole package," he said. 

Johnson is the second woman — after Zimpher — to be appointed SUNY chancellor. She's the first openly gay person to hold the post. Her wife, Veronica Meinhard, attended the SUNY Board of Trustees meeting Monday. 

She was born in St. Louis and raised in Colorado, but she does have New York roots. Her mother was born and raised in New York City and her parents' wedding ceremony took place at the Lady chapel in St. Patrick's Cathedral. 

Johnson recalled stories her mother told about growing up in New York. 

"I feel that I'm coming home," she said. 

Johnson's first day will be Sept. 5. Her annual salary will be $560,000 and she'll be allowed to live in the SUNY-owned residence reserved for the chancellor. She'll also be granted access to a university-owned vehicle or an $800 a month automobile allowance. 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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