Campus News

Kristina Johnson named SUNY’s 13th chancellor

Nancy Zimpher, Kristina Johnson and H. Carl McCall pose for photos in front of a SUNY backdrop.

From left: Nancy Zimpher, Kristina Johnson and H. Carl McCall pose for photos in front of a SUNY backdrop at the announcement of Johnson's appointment. Photo: SUNY


Published April 24, 2017


The SUNY Board of Trustees today named Kristina M. Johnson as the 13th chancellor of SUNY.

Johnson is the founder and chief executive officer of Cube Hydro Partners LLC, which develops hydroelectric generation facilities that provide clean energy to communities and businesses throughout the country. She was appointed by President Barack Obama as U.S. undersecretary of energy, and served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Johns Hopkins University, as well as dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University.

Her appointment takes effect Sept. 5. Chancellor Nancy Zimpher will step down from the position in June 2017 after an eight-year term. SUNY trustees will appoint interim leadership for the period between June and September at their June 21 board meeting.

“Throughout her distinguished career, Kristina Johnson has not only been a faculty member, administrator and visionary in higher education, but also a dedicated public servant, national energy czar, successful entrepreneur and an acclaimed inventor,” said SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall. “We are thrilled to welcome her to SUNY, where her range of experience will enable her to leverage the incredible work of our 64 colleges and universities.”

Zimpher called Johnson “a proven leader and innovator whose cross-sector experience and strong belief in the power of education will be a great benefit to the State University of New York. In academia, she has brought stakeholder groups together to create and implement strategic vision crafted at the hands of many.

“On the national forefront, she successfully managed and uplifted our country’s most advanced energy research,” Zimpher said. “And as a former faculty member turned entrepreneur, time and again she has bridged the gap between higher education and business to create programs that prepare students for in-demand careers. The future of SUNY is indeed bright under the leadership of Dr. Johnson.”

President Satish Tripathi, a member of the committee that led the search for the new chancellor, noted that as a faculty member and scholar, dean, provost, business owner and undersecretary of energy, Johnson comes to SUNY “with an incredible range of professional experiences that will position her well to lead SUNY as our next chancellor. I look forward to working with Dr. Johnson as we pursue SUNY’s commitment to excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and creative work, and service to the many communities we serve,” Tripathi said.

Throughout her career, Johnson has been an advocate for women in leadership, advanced STEM and STEAM education, pioneered the creation of jobs through higher education-industry partnerships, established intensive research opportunities for students and faculty, and positioned leading institutions of higher education for greater success through the development of innovative strategic plans.

She is an inventor and entrepreneur who holds 118 U.S. and international patents. She is a member of the National Academy of Inventors and the National Academy of Engineering, and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame with Gary Sharp in 2015 for the development of polarization-control technologies that enabled high-quality 3D movies and TV.

She also is an NSF Presidential Young Investigator (1985) and a Fulbright Faculty Scholar (1991). Other awards include the Dennis Gabor Prize for creativity and innovation in modern optics (1993) and the John Fritz Medal (2008), which is widely considered the highest award in engineering. Previous recipients include Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and Orville Wright.

Johnson received a BS with distinction, MS and PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University. After a NATO post-doctoral fellowship at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, she joined the University of Colorado-Boulder faculty in 1985 as an assistant professor and later was promoted to full professor. From 1994-98, she directed the NSF/ERC for Optoelectronics Computing Systems Center at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University before joining Duke as dean of its engineering school.