NACUBO president dies shortly after saying she would step down

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Dive Brief:

  • Susan Whealler Johnston, president and CEO of the National Association of College and University Business Officers, died Friday, just four days after she announced her retirement.
  • Johnston died following a battle with cancer, NACUBO said in a news release.
  • The association announced Johnston’s retirement Aug. 8, saying it would be effective this month.

Dive Insight:

Johnston was the first woman to lead NACUBO. She started at the association in August 2018.

She was credited with increasing NACUBO’s membership and securing new grant funding with a goal of improving outcomes for institutions that enroll many underserved students. She also oversaw the association as it created a consulting arm and launched an Emerging Leaders program for finance and business staff.

NACUBO said Johnston was committed to bolstering its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

“Her compassionate leadership, which emphasized student success and inclusion for all, will leave a lasting impact on NACUBO and the business officer profession,” the association said in a statement.

Johnston took an early medical retirement to focus on her health and to allow NACUBO’s board to transition to new leadership, she said in a statement last week when she stepped down.

“It has been a great joy to serve as NACUBO’s president,” she said in the statement.

Johnston started as a professor of English and dean of academic development at Rockford University, in Illinois. She went on to become associate dean at Regent’s College in London and an executive at the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities.

She led AGB’s institutes for board chairs and presidents, according to a biography posted by Rollins College, in Florida. Johnston chaired the board of trustees at Rollins.

“Susan was an astute and experienced leader, admired for her clear thinking, her quiet courage, and her warm heart,” Rollins President Grant Cornwell said in a statement. “In a time that was extraordinarily difficult for her, she acted with her usual poise and attentiveness to her commitments. She was a role model for so many, including myself: grace, wisdom, professionalism, and humanity, fully embodied.”

Johnston also served on governing boards for Radford University and the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. She was on the advisory committee for the National Survey of Student Engagement.

Johnston earned her doctorate and a master’s degree from Purdue University after attending Rollins College for her undergraduate degree, which she received in 1975. She was preceded in death by her husband, Joe.

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