Saturday, December 19, 2009
Howard W. Johnson (1922-2009)
Howard W. Johnson, who was president of M.I.T. during the turbulent anti-war protests in 1969, has died. The NYT obituary is here. Johnson is credited with bringing calm to a campus that was a focus of protests by Students for a Democratic Society and the Black Panthers. In contrast to more aggressive and confrontational styles exhibited by leaders on other campuses, Johnson went among the students and faculty to listen to their concerns and calmly discuss the university's position. He was able to defuse some of the tension on the M.I.T. campus through face-to-face communication and by making certain concessions regarding some of the defense programs that engendered protests. Today's campus leaders would do well to follow Johnson's example.