CSUN remembers the life of graduate studies leader, Mack Johnson

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The CSUN campus remembered Dr. Mack Johnson for his compassion toward students and excellence in academic administrative experience.

Johnson, associate vice president of graduate studies, research and international programs and professor of biology, died Wednesday after collapsing due to a heart attack in his campus office.

His death follows his retirement announcement due to illness.  He was 73.

Johnson worked at CSUN for 25 years and had a significant impact on many faculty members and students.

“For an administrator he was really loved,” said Hedy Carpenter, associate director of graduate studies, research and international programs. “I’ve probably in the last 24 hours received 100 emails from faculty.

“That is something you don’t usually get because he was so cared about and they thought he was so supportive, fair and honest.”

Carpenter said he was a great counselor and spent a lot of time with students.

Former student assistant and now faculty in the linguistics program, Shadi Ganjavi, said she learned much compassion from Johnson, and would go to him with any kind of dilemma or question.  She considered him a mentor.

She said he focused on helping students from their perspective.

“One thing about him that is amazing is that he was never telling people how much he was doing and all the work he was doing for the students,” said Ganjavi. “He was always about other people, very generous.”

Johnson oversaw the scholars who came from all over the world to work as research scholars and international faculty members. He oversaw the curriculum for graduate studies and is particularly remembered for his role in research and obtaining grants.

“Because he had done research and understood how hard it is to get federal grants, I really bonded with him,” said Dr. Jerry N. Stinner, dean of science and math. “If you haven’t worked in that kind of arena you don’t understand how tough it is to be funded, so Mack was a shining light for this campus.”

Johnson held a baccalaureate degree in biology from the University of Virginia, a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Tuskegee University, and a Ph.D. in veterinary and comparative pathology from Washington State University. He held faculty positions at Tuskegee University, the University of California, Davis and Washington State University prior to joining CSUN.

Johnson taught and conducted research in international locations including the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases in Kenya and the colleges of Veterinary Medicine in the Sudan and Kenya.

Johnson grew up on a farm in Virginia and took great joy returning every summer to ride the tractor and farm the land. He also loved to tinker with cars and work with his hands, said Stinner.

Johnson is survived by his wife and two children. Details regarding a memorial service for Johnson will be available soon.


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