Richard Johanson of Flint Hill received Macalester College’s Charles J. Turck Global Citizen Award last month during the college’s reunion weekend. The award recognizes an alumnus who has advanced the cause of the internationalist spirit by providing inspirational leadership and promoting global understanding, peace and justice, and is named after former Macalester president Turck. Johanson was the fifth alumnus to receive the award. Other recipients include Kofi Annan ’61, former secretary general of the United Nations, also a Macalester alumnus.
A program in Nigeria the summer before his senior year at Macalester set the course for Johanson’s career. He took part in a student project studying the social consequences of Hansen’s disease, then called leprosy. One day a Nigerian principal told him about problems caused by rural-urban migration and youth unemployment and how education was a key solution. That conversation changed Johanson’s life. He later joined a program at Harvard and became one of the earliest students to enter the new field of educational planning for developing countries.
Johanson has worked in 70 mostly low-income countries, helping analyze educational issues and design educational investment programs. From Indonesia to Eritrea, Uganda to Cambodia, he has worked to help bring education and training to the world’s people. He contributed to numerous educational investment projects and helped plan several major educational reforms.
He holds a doctorate in education from Harvard University, a master’s in the history and philosophy of education from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. in philosophy from Macalester. He started his career with USAID in the mid-1960s and held technical, management and advisory positions at the World Bank in Washington and the International Labor Organization in Geneva.
Now in his 70s, Johanson’s work continues to take him on several international trips annually; recently he traveled to Gaza, China, Ghana, Uganda, Nepal and the Philippines for various international organizations and governments. As he said, “Education’s three major goals — getting all eligible children in school, keeping them there and seeing that they learn useful skills — are just as compelling today as they were when I started my career 47 years ago.”