Obituary: Johnson, associate dean in Arts & Sciences; 47

Sara L. Johnson, J.D., associate dean and academic coordinator in the College of Arts & Sciences, died Monday, May 17, 2004, of metastatic neuroendocrine cancer. She was 47.

Johnson, a WUSTL alumna, came to work for the University in 1989 as special assistant to then-Chancellor William H. Danforth. She dealt with a wide variety of policy issues, as well as community relations, complaint resolution and special projects.

Sara Johnson
Sara Johnson

“Sara was a wonderful person who made us all better,” said Danforth, now chancellor emeritus. “Friends, colleagues and students at Washington University will all miss her.”

She served with Danforth for six years, until his retirement in 1995. She remained in the same capacity for two years under Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton.

“I met Sara when she was a student 30 years ago, and her talent was striking even then,” said James E. McLeod, vice chancellor for students and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “The thing I most appreciate is that we had a person of such talent and experience with deep commitment to the University and its students.

“She was a terrific human being, an extraordinary colleague to have.”

She served as chair of the committee to revise the student judicial code in 1994-95 and co-chaired the Undergraduate Council in 1996. She also served as recording secretary for the Chancellor’s Cabinet under Danforth and the University Council under Wrighton.

She was a member of numerous committees and acted as a liaison to Clayton and University City and to the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood.

“Sara Johnson was a very special person,” Wrighton said. “She assisted me in making the transition to Washington University and guided me during my first few years here. As associate dean in Arts & Sciences, she emerged as a great leader for the University and a wonderful advocate and adviser for our students.

“She was a person with uncommon ability, sensitivity and dedication. Hers was a life of importance, and she will be deeply missed by me and our entire community.”

Johnson graduated from the University in 1978 with Arts & Sciences degrees in history and economics. She earned a law degree from the University of Chicago in 1981.

She is survived by her partner, Kathleen M. Wildman; her mother, Dorothy S. Johnson; her sister, Lisa (Harvey) Van Sickle; and three nephews.

A memorial service will be at 3 p.m. May 23 in Graham Chapel. A reception will follow in Holmes Lounge.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the University and earmarked for the Sara L. Johnson Scholarship. Contributions should be sent to Robert Gibson, Campus Box 1210, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130-4899.

The scholarship will provide need-based assistance to students in the College of Arts & Sciences.

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