Dr. Pat Johnson

Written By Katy Kelly

In 2009, with her appointment as Alumni Chair in the Humanities, philosophy professor Dr. Patricia Johnson became the first woman in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Dayton to hold an endowed chair. Among her priorities for her four-year endowed appointment: advancing curricular development related to diversity issues. The Alumni Chair is one of many leadership positions Johnson held in a 35-year UD academic career that began in 1979. Now holding the rank of professor emerita, this distinguished service professor also served as director of the women’s studies program, chair of the philosophy department, and the College of Arts and Sciences’ associate dean for connected learning. In 2012, Dr. Johnson received the Lackner Award, the highest honor at UD for contributions to the Catholic, Marianist character and identity of the University.

Though Dr. Johnson retired in 2014, her efforts to increase opportunities and stature for women in academia are still evident.“Women working together to support each other in every campus role can be profoundly effective,” she says, “I would encourage the women working at UD now to continue building communities of support so that women can continue to advance and flourish in all positions at UD.” Dr. Johnson’s programs have created positive impacts. Dr. Johnson’s focus on diversity during her tenure as Alumni Chair led to open conversations about incorporating diverse themes in courses through thoughtful revision and new offerings,  including her course on philosophy and cultural diversity. Through faculty development programs and workshops, she encouraged faculty to examine topics through the lens of diversity, and she worked with the University Libraries to improve holdings to support this type of interdisciplinary scholarship.

In addition to Dr. Johnson's push for diversity, she also took part in the establishment of a baccalaureate program in philosophy for Marianists in Bangalore, India. She frequently visited the Marianists in the program, who were able to take philosophy courses to enrich their outreach activities to children and families in rural areas of India.

Specializing in hermeneutics, 19th- and 20th-century continental philosophy, and philosophy of religion, Dr. Johnson has graduate degrees in both comparative religion and philosophy. Read widely in many disciplines, she says she enjoys learning that crosses disciplines. After she retired, she moved to Northfield, Minnesota, to be near family. Nearby undergraduate colleges “provide wonderful opportunities to continue an intellectual life,” Dr. Johnson says. In addition to writing and reading, Johnson spends time gardening, reading with first-graders at a local school, and volunteering with the League of Women Voters. “Most importantly,” she says, “I am able to approach life more quietly, developing a focused spiritual practice and enjoying time with nature.”