Richard Johanson ’63

2013 Charles J. Turck Global Citizen Award

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A program in Nigeria the summer before his senior year at Macalester set the course for Richard Johanson’s career. Johanson took part in a Student Project for Amity Among Nations (SPAN) project studying the social consequences of Hansen’s disease, then called leprosy. Then one day a Nigerian teacher told him about problems caused by rural-urban migration, and how education was a key solution.

That conversation changed Johanson’s life. Soon he joined a program at Harvard, one of the first students to enter the new field of educational planning for developing countries.

Johanson’s first job in educational development was in Jamaica for USAID. Since then, he has worked in 70 mostly low-income countries, helping design educational investment programs. From Indonesia to Eritrea and from Uganda to Cambodia, he has strived to bring education to the world’s people. He is proud of contributing to many educational investment projects, including pushing the World Bank to include support for primary education and helping plan major educational reforms in Korea and Hungary.

Now in his 70s, Johanson’s work continues to take him on half a dozen international trips a year; recently he traveled to Gaza, China, and the Philippines for the World Bank and UNICEF. He has also written about skills development in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

International education’s three major goals—getting all eligible children in school, keeping them there, and seeing that they learn something useful—are as compelling today as they were when Johanson set off for Jamaica 48 years ago.

So he continues to work around the globe, because even as Johanson takes satisfaction in past achievements, he knows this: There’s much left to be done in the world.