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Rebecca L. Johnson

Becky Johnson

Becky Johnson, 2021

Rebecca L. "Becky" Johnson was named interim president of Oregon State University on April 16, 2021. A long-time OSU faculty member, Johnson had led the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend, Oregon since 2008. 

Becky Johnson was born in 1955 in Racine, Wisconsin, and grew up in the state capitol of Madison. After completing high school in 1973, Johnson stayed close to home by enrolling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied Economics and participated in both varsity basketball and golf. After completing her Wisconsin bachelor's degree in 1977, Johnson enrolled as a graduate student at Michigan State University, and earned her masters of science in Agricultural Economics in 1979, minoring in Natural Resources. Five years later, Johnson received her doctorate in Agricultural Economics, once again from MSU.

In 1984, Johnson was hired as an assistant professor by Oregon State University, working in the College of Forestry's Department of Resource Recreation Management (now the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society). Johnson's research focused on estimating the economic values and impacts of non-market resources including recreation and tourism, fish and wildlife, and biodiversity.

Johnson's first administrative appointment came to pass in the 1990s, when she was named Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and International Programs within the College of Forestry. In 2002, she moved into upper administration as Vice Provost of Academic Affairs and International Programs. In 2008, Johnson relocated to Bend to lead OSU-Cascades. During her tenure there, OSU-Cascades became Central Oregon’s first four-year university, with enrollment nearly tripling to around 1,400 students.

Named "Woman of the Year" by a Bend weekly newspaper, The Source, as well as Bend Chamber Woman of the Year, Johnson is the first woman to lead Oregon State University as president. She is also the first known member of the LGBTQ+ community to serve in this capacity.

Related Resource: Oral History Interview