In Memoriam: Jerry A. Johnson, MBA, EdD, OTR, FAOTA
Jerry A. Johnson, who served as AOTA president from 1973 to 1978, passed away on November 23, 2012, in Lubbock, Texas.
Johnson earned a BS in occupational therapy from Texas Woman’s University, an MBA from Harvard University (she was in the second class that admitted women), and a doctoral degree in educational administration from Boston University. Johnson also served as a visiting professor at Queensland University in Brisbane, Australia. She presented the AOTA Eleanor Clarke Slagle lecture in 1972, entitled “Occupational Therapy: A Model for the Future”; was named a Distinguished Alumna of Texas Woman’s University in 1984; and received the AOTA Award of Merit and Roster of Fellows.
Johnson was founder, professor, and director of the Department of Occupational Therapy at Boston University, where she also served as chairman of the Graduate Division and then as associate dean for academic affairs. Later, she served as director of graduate education and research in the Occupational Therapy Department at Colorado State University.
In 1976, Johnson became the Elias Michael Director and Professor for the Program in Occupational Therapy at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The post-professional graduate program, established under her guidance in 1977, allowed three levels of entry, provided advanced training in practice and research, and necessitated the establishment of a research-oriented faculty whose goal was to further the quest for new knowledge in the profession. Johnson also conducted the first national occupational therapy research seminar. The 3-2 program, which was established by Johnson, allows students to take their academic courses at a liberal arts college, then transfer to the Washington University School of Medicine for 2 years of occupational therapy courses, leading to a master of science degree. Johnson was also responsible for starting a community service program, making additional resources available to students, and increasing faculty research, student financial aid, and alumni contributions.
Elizabeth “Betty” Yerxa, EdD, OTR, FAOTA, served as AOTA vice president with Johnson from 1972 to 1975. She remembers Johnson’s commitment to quality practice. “One of her strongest commitments was to recognize excellence in clinical practice. She wanted to establish the title of Master Clinician or advanced certification for outstanding practitioners. She also fostered both graduate education and research as vital for improving practice. Many of her former students became faculty members and researchers.”
Yerxa also recalled that during Johnson’s presidency, Johnson used her managerial and leadership skills to oversee a major reorganization of AOTA, including the creation of Special Interest Sections for those wanting to focus on a particular aspect of practice.
“I had the honor of being Jerry’s vice president, and she was an inspiration,” Yerxa said. “She had a refreshingly self-deprecating sense of humor, which maintained a healthy sense of perspective for all of us.”
Special thanks to the Program in Occupational Therapy at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and Elizabeth Yerxa.
Photo courtesy of the Program in Occupational Therapy at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.