A Lifetime of Service, A Legacy of Leadership

Category: Uncategorized

By John Lacey


For more than a half-century, UT President Emeritus Joe Johnson has served the University of Tennessee and people of this state, leaving a legacy of impact and leadership that has been deep and far-reaching. The power of his words and values on the importance of relationships, challenging and enjoyable work and service, act as a north star for all of us.

In honor of Johnson’s 50 years of continuous service, all UT employees who are future recipients of the 50-year service recognition will receive the “Joe Johnson Lifetime Service Award.”

Following are excerpts from an interview with Johnson about his lifetime of service to the University.

What has kept you at UT all these years?

I only intended to stay three years and ended up staying 50, for two meaningful reasons really. One, I have worked and continue to work with a wonderful group of people—everyone from maintenance staff to professors, deans, students and administrators. Second, the purpose for which we (the University) exist. That is to educate, research and serve the people. All of this is very rewarding.

What keeps you coming in every day, and what does the future hold for you?

My wife doesn’t want me to stay at home! Seriously though, I love staying involved and serving, and I want to stay involved as long as I am able. I get asked to give advice and react to things, and I enjoy that. As long as I can do that and not be a bumbling idiot, then I’m glad to do it. Also, I’m the only one old enough to answer questions that no one else can.

What advice would you give employees?

I would stay consistent with the advice I have given for years. Three things: enjoy what you do. Having a career that you enjoy makes everything rewarding. Also, have a good relationship with whom and for whom you work. In order to make that rewarding, you as an individual have to reach out. You are part of creating that. And, accept challenges. Be willing to take on added assignments. When you do that it opens up opportunities for advancement and greater responsibilities.