Professor Emeritus George Johnson, who served the College of Business for nearly 35 years, passed away October 11. He was 83.
Born August 7, 1938, he grew up in Colorado, spending countless hours enjoying the outdoors of the Rocky Mountains and playing sports. He joined the Colorado National Guard at age 17 and served until 1961, during which time he also earned an associate’s degree in gunsmithing from Trinidad Community College in Colorado. After four years running a gunsmithing and sporting goods business, he returned to higher education at Kansas State University and completed his PhD in economics in 1969.
Doctorate in hand, he was hired that same year to teach in the College of Business at Chico State. For many years, he taught management science curriculum and then became the associate vice provost for resource planning, a role he held until retirement in 1998, although he continued to teach statistics in the college and the Department of Mathematics for several additional years.
Colleagues recall that he was known for his calm demeanor, his expertise, sensible problem-solving, good humor, and jovial attitude.
“He was down-to-earth, straightforward, and supportive of good ideas,” said Professor Emeritus Ralph Meuter, who worked with Johnson in the provost’s office for a quarter-century. “And he supported the people around him, which we all appreciated.”
Retired faculty member George Wellman had Johnson as his professor in the first class he took at Chico State in 1969. Shortly thereafter, Johnson hired him as a student assistant and they worked closely until Wellman went into the MBA program, at which time Johnson chaired his thesis committee and hired him as a graduate teaching assistant, all the while sharing his enthusiasm for the discipline and teaching.
“He was a gentleman scholar,” Wellman said. “It’s reflected in his classroom demeanor. He had it in his heart the desire to move students to learn, achieve, and excel.”
Wellman describes Johnson as a “genius” in the area of management science, and said he also excelled in an administrative capacity, with an attitude that created cooperative relationships to solve problems and get things done.
Throughout Johnson’s life, he remained connected to his Colorado roots, returning annually to elk hunt with friends and attend the occasional high school reunion. His passion for firearms also persisted and he became a champion trap shooter several times in area meets. In retirement, he also enjoyed weekly coffee meetings with friends and cheering on the Wildcat basketball and baseball teams.
He is survived by his sons, Gregory and Cale, their wives, and their children. Services were held October 18 in Chico, and a celebration of life is being planned for him and his wife, Judy, in Durango, Colorado, in summer 2022.