New College Mourns Loss of Sen. Bob Johnson

New College of Florida is mourning the loss of Sen. Bob Johnson, a member of the New College Board of Trustees and longtime supporter of the College. Johnson, a state legislator for 16 years, died Monday, Aug. 31, a day before his 81st birthday.

“Bob Johnson was an extraordinary human being, and I was privileged to count him as a friend,” said New College President Don O’Shea.  “His was an incredible life, well-lived.  He was a force of nature, and the College owes its continued strength and existence to him.  Those who love New College loved him, and all of us are in mourning. He will not be forgotten.”

Johnson was originally appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to the New College of Florida Board of Trustees in 2001, when New College was designated a member of the State University System and the honors college for the arts and sciences of the State of Florida.

He subsequently was re-appointed to the Board by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010. Johnson served as Chair of the New College Board from 2001 to 2007 and also from 2010 to 2012.

Johnson was a major figure in New College history. He played an important role in making the College part of the State University System in 1975. Two years later, he was named a trustee of the New College Foundation. Johnson helped procure funding that resulted in the construction of the Jane Bancroft Cook Library, the Heiser Natural Sciences complex and numerous other facilities on campus.

Prof. Gordon “Mike” Michalson, former president of New College, worked closely with Johnson for many years.

“Bob was steadfast in his support of New College, and his love of this place seemed to grow over the years,” Michalson said.  “His connections with Florida’s wider political culture were invaluable to us when New College became independent in 2001. I can say on a personal level that he was fun to work with, to travel with, and to fish with.  He always had an apt anecdote as well as words of encouragement.  I’ll always be immensely grateful for his support during some challenging transitional times.”

In April 2011, New College honored Johnson with the dedication of a sculpture of its “Four Winds” symbol, recognizing his work on behalf of the College. The plaque on the sculpture’s base reads as follows:

“In this 50th Anniversary year of New College, the administration, faculty and students of New College and the New College Foundation proudly dedicate The Four Winds sculpture to Senator Bob Johnson, who, as state representative and senator, civic leader and long-time member of the New College of Florida and New College Foundation boards, has done more than any other individual to ensure the existence and growing excellence of New College of Florida, the state’s Honors College.” 

The sculpture stands on library plaza outside the main classroom building. (Video of the dedication ceremony:

New College is planning a memorial for Sen. Johnson. The date and location will be announced soon.