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Philip L. Johnson

Dr. Philip L. Johnson, executive director of ORAU, 1974-1981

Dr. Philip L. Johnson was elected executive director of Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) by the ORAU Board of Directors in June 1974. He succeeded Dr. William G. Pollard, who had been the executive director since the organization was founded in 1946.

As executive director, Johnson was responsible for all ORAU corporate, divisional, and sponsoring institution activities. During his seven-year tenure, the number of employees grew from 300 to 500, the budget grew from $6.5 million to $21 million, and a number of new programs were added, including an assessment project on how carbon dioxide emissions affect the atmosphere.

The carbon dioxide assessment project became the largest single project in ORAU’s Institute for Energy Analysis. Also during this time, the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina began collaborating with ORAU on epidemiological projects. Johnson was proud of these many accomplishments: “We have made some significant strides for ORAU and for our sponsoring institutions while providing outstanding services and counsel to the U.S. Department of Energy and other public and private agencies.”

Johnson came to ORAU from the National Science Foundation (NSF), where he served as the division director of environmental systems and resources. Prior to that he served as deputy head of NSF’s Office of Interdisciplinary Research and earlier as director of the ecosystem analysis program. Before joining NSF, Johnson taught at Dartmouth College, the University of Georgia, and the University of Wyoming.

Johnson received his B.S. in agriculture and his M.S. in natural resources from Purdue University. He earned his Ph.D. in plant ecology from Duke University. He has a long list of scientific publications to his credit. His professional interests have been in ecosystem analysis, land use planning, physiological ecology, arctic-alpine ecology, and remote sensing applications.

He was a member of the Arctic Institute of North America, the Ecological Society of America, the British Ecological Society, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.