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Lamar University remembers Andrew Jay Johnson III

The Lamar University community honors the life of former history professor and long-time administrator Andrew Jay Johnson III who died June 2, 2019. Johnson worked at Lamar University for nearly 40 years, including serving Andrew Johnsonas interim president from 1984-1985.

Johnson, a native of Beaumont, attended Lamar State College of Technology in 1951 then transferred to The University of Texas where he received a Bachelor of Arts in history. He went on to receive his Master of Arts in history, a master of arts from the Graduate Library School at The University of Chicago and his doctorate from Indiana University. He returned to Beaumont with his family in 1958 and began what would be a 37-year career at Lamar State College of Technology and then Lamar University. Johnson served a variety of roles under six college presidents and made significant contributions to the university.

 He was the Director of Library Services and initiated a project to reclassify the library collection under the Library of Congress Classification. Under his direction the library expanded and became the Mary and John Gray Library.

Johnson served Lamar University in a number of leadership positions, including vice president for academic affairs; vice president for administration; vice president administration and planning, executive associate to the president; vice president for administration, personnel and student services; vice president for student and university affairs; and assistant to the chancellor. In 1984, Chancellor of the Lamar University System, C. Robert “Bob” Kemble, named Johnson interim president.

“Andrew Johnson embodied Lamar,” said Kemble. “For the ten years I was president, he was committed to quietly advancing the university through his orderly and even-handed administrative competence, eschewing distractions and divisions. An ever reliable and devoted teammate, Andrew was an admirable colleague and has for over thirty years remained a close personal friend. He is missed.”

One of the most controversial decisions Johnson made was to hire the first female executive. Johnson hired Maxine Johnston, a former LU classmate of his, even though hiring a woman at that time in such a high-ranking position – associate director of the library - was unpopular. Johnston later became the director of the Mary and John Gray Library and to this day serves Lamar University and the library.

“As a librarian working with him, I’m most likely to say that his work in the library was critical to its growth and services. A major achievement was directing reclassification of the collection from Dewey Decimal to Library of Congress system. But delivery of quality services to students and faculty was equally important,” said Maxine Johnston, who first met Johnson in 1947 when she was a secretary for the Tyrrell Public Library and Johnson was a page for the library. “Because of our friendship and mutual respect, our work together as associate director and director (at the Mary and John Gray Library) was a productive and amicable period in our lives.  That friendship and regard continued as he assumed higher, more demanding roles in university leadership.”

Johnson, who retired from Lamar University in 1996, was also responsible for organizing LU’s first summer travel program. In the 1970s Johnson and Dean Brock Brentlinger, organized and directed student programs abroad and students took classes in Rome and London.

“Andrew was a low-key leader,” said W.S. “Bud” Leonard, who served as vice president and vice chancellor alongside Johnson. “He led by example, always the first to be a peacemaker, to challenge thoughts and put his experience to use.  I Found him to be upfront, truthful and supportive all of those things you want a colleague to be. He was a wonderful colleague, a wonderful gentleman, a fine ex-student of Lamar University as well as a wonderful administrator. I can’t say enough nice things; he was a wonderful friend to me.”

Johnson has left a legacy of honor and leadership at Lamar University.