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05-13-2001

Watertown Daily Times Editor Awarded Clarkson University Honorary Degree

The degree was awarded "for his wide-ranging contributions to social progress through journalism and purposeful community activism, and for his invaluable counsel to Clarkson with respect to the interests of the North Country."

In addressing the graduates Johnson said, in part, "I am especially honored to accept this degree, because it … affirms my strongly held belief that no professional responsibility can be used as an excuse to avoid striving to make the community which nurtures you a better place to live. Newspaper editors sometimes hide behind a façade of editorial independence to plead that public service can compromise their news judgment. That is an ill-conceived notion. Public service helps the community, and who better to look out for the problems, which challenge us all than a newspaper editor… A successful hometown needs community activists who advocate change, seek better solutions, provide opportunity for those in our midst who have the least chance to make a difference.

Become an advocate for civic improvement; do not rely on others to develop the answers, because you won't like the results.

John B. Johnson Jr. has been a journalist and a forceful community activist in New York's North Country for 33 years. He was managing editor of the Watertown Daily Times, the North Country's largest newspaper, from 1973 to May 2001, when he succeeded his late father as editor, and with his brother became co-publisher. At that time, he was also named chairman of the board and CEO of the Johnson Newspaper Corporation.

The Watertown Chamber of Commerce honored him as its Citizen of the Year in 1997.

During his tenure at The Times, Johnson has overseen the development and publication of its first Sunday edition, installation of a new printing press, and aggressive development and implementation of computer-assisted editing and production systems. The Times is distinguished as the smallest American newspaper with a full-time Washington bureau. Johnson also has oversight responsibility for six other daily newspapers owned by his family, and has served three times as a juror for Pulitzer prizes.

A Clarkson Trustee since 1991, he has served on the Physical Plant, Student Life, Center for Advanced Materials Processing, and Enrollment committees. As chairman of the Committee on Trustees, he has been an outspoken advocate for further diversification of the Clarkson Board. His wife, Susan MacDonald Johnson, serves as a trustee of St. Lawrence University.

Johnson was graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1962, Vanderbilt University in 1966, and earned a master's degree in business and journalism from Columbia University. He and his wife are parents of two sons.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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