March 28, 2013
Government relations VP Johnson announces retirement
Stephen Philip Johnson, vice president for government and community relations, has announced his retirement after 40 years of service to Cornell University.
"In his roles as assistant vice president for government relations, heading the Washington lobbying office, and most recently as vice president for government and community relations, Steve has given exemplary service to the Cornell community and to the people of Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York state and our country," said President David Skorton. "He has advocated for effective legislative action to help support the educational, research, health care and public engagement missions of Cornell and others in higher education and, in so doing, has had an enormously positive effect on us all."
Johnson will continue in his current leadership role until a successor is found. See Skorton's statement on changes in Cornell's external relations organization.
For the past six years as vice president, Johnson has led the strategy and operations of Government and Community Relations, with offices on the Ithaca and Weill Cornell Medical College campuses, in Albany and in Washington, D.C., directing the university's legislative efforts and coordinating its involvement with government-focused higher education associations.
Johnson has also advocated for the university's interests by developing strong relationships with members of Congress, White House and federal agency officials, and special-interest groups; supervised the university's lobbying activities at state and federal levels; and worked on behalf of such regional economic development initiatives as the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council.
"It has been an honor to represent all parts of this great university," said Johnson. "I've enjoyed the privilege of working for and with President Skorton, his senior leadership team and Vice President Glenn Altschuler. I appreciate all that my staff has done to support me and the office, and to further the university's objectives at the federal, state and community levels."
Johnson also advanced revisions in immigration law to permit the employment of outstanding scientists and scholars under the H-1B visa program, including securing permanent exemption for higher education. He organized the first joint federal lobbying day for New York medical colleges. He also established the university's federal relations office in Washington, D.C., in 1999.
For the past several years, Johnson has served as an informal mentor to underrepresented Cornell students interested in public policy, introducing them to Washington lobbying efforts and helping them develop various student programs.
"Vice President Johnson is simply a legend -- smart, passionate and filled with kindness," said Julio A. Cabral Corrada '13. "I met him four years ago when we organized together the visit of Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño to Cornell. Since then, we have collaborated in a myriad of ways. Whether lobbying for student Pell Grants or advocating for faculty research funds, Steve works with a deep sense of responsibility and determination. I am genuinely grateful to have him as a mentor."
Prior to serving in government relations, Johnson was a program coordinator and extension associate for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 1972-84. He helped secure federal or state funding for such initiatives as Cornell's Food Science pilot plant, the Cornell University Center for Advanced Computing, the Wilson Synchrotron Laboratory, other capital facilities on the Ithaca and Geneva campuses, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. He also helped establish the first interstate nutrition education program and pesticide safety education program for Cornell Cooperative Extension's program for migrant farm workers and their families.
Johnson received his Master of Public Administration degree from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and his B.A. from Pennsylvania State University. His wife, Lorraine, is a 1966 graduate of Cornell; they have two sons who also are Cornell graduates: Chris '96 and Marc '01, MPA '04.