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Marc Johnson named University of Nevada, Reno President

Board of Regents approves recommendation by Search Committee to appoint interim president to continue as president of Nevada’s land-grant university  

LAS VEGAS, Nev.– Marc Johnson was today named the 16th president of the University of Nevada, Reno by a vote of the Nevada Board of Regents. 

“It is a high honor to have been given this opportunity,” Johnson said. 

March Johnson

Marc Johnson was today named the 16th president of the University of Nevada, Reno by a vote of the Nevada Board of Regents. Photo by Theresa Danna-Douglas.

“I am very gratified by the community and campus support of my candidacy,” said Johnson, who has served as the University’s interim president since the sudden death of University President Milt Glick in April 2011. 

“The University of Nevada, Reno is a quality university with a statewide obligation and presence, and we will continue to communicate with our constituents statewide to better convey what the University represents and how it contributes to Nevada’s future,” Johnson added. “We will continue to grow the University’s national reputation and remain committed to being a University with hands-on learning opportunities that prepares students with the knowledge and skills to be contributing, successful citizens.” 

In accepting the role, Johnson expressed his commitment to partner with faculty, staff, students and the community to sustain the University’s momentum. In the past year the University has achieved its highest-ever enrollment, number of graduates, number of National Merit Scholars, number of students of color and graduation rate. The University maintained its top tier ranking among the “nation’s best universities” by U.S. News and World Report, and this year was ranked among the top 100 public universities. 

Since being appointed president on an interim basis, Johnson established the University’s Office of Diversity Initiatives and has represented the University in the upcoming move to the Mountain West Conference. Two significant gifts were made to the University in recent weeks: a $5 million gift from Phil and Jennifer Satre to benefit the School of Medicine, College of Education and athletics, and $1.6 million from the Redfield Foundation to benefit the School of Medicine. 

“We’ve come through some challenging times, but there is a spirit and resiliency about this University that has carried us through,” said Johnson. “It has been immensely rewarding to see the commitment of our faculty, staff and friends, and the strong desire to support our future generations and improve the quality of this institution and, ultimately, the health and economic well-being of Nevada.” 

Johnson was named president at a meeting of the Nevada Board of Regents at the Desert Research Institute in Las Vegas. Johnson was recommended as the finalist candidate by the Regents’ Presidential Search Committee on April 18. The decision of the committee of six regents was made with input from an Institutional Advisory Committee consisting of 11 representatives of the community and 12 representatives of University faculty, staff and students. A series of forums was also held to allow faculty, staff, students and the community the opportunity to meet with Johnson and two other candidates. 

“The passion for and interest in the University of Nevada, Reno and its future are clear,” Regent James Dean Leavitt, chair of the Regents’ Presidential Search Committee, said of the level of involvement. “In particular, I appreciate the time and thoughtful input contributed by the members of the Institutional Advisory Committee. The recommendation of our search committee was better informed because of this broad-based involvement.” 

“Dr. Johnson is very honest and very straightforward,” said Erik Williams, chairman of the University’s Staff Employees Council. “He has really garnered our respect. He saw this University through changes and challenges, and did so with integrity.” 

“I am happy to see President Johnson’s good work rewarded by the Board of Regents and look forward to working with him to grow this University in the future,” said David Ryfe, faculty member and chairman of the University’s Faculty Senate. 

Johnson joined the University of Nevada, Reno as executive vice president and provost in 2008. As provost, often described as a university’s chief academic officer, Johnson was responsible for academic and outreach programs. The University’s academic units, including the colleges, schools and extended studies division, reported to Johnson. He led the development of the University’s Strategic Plan in 2009, which provides an operational blueprint through 2015 and incorporates input from individuals and divisions from across the University. 

Johnson was raised and employed on his family’s fruit farm near Wichita, Kan., and began his career as a laboratory and instructional assistant at the Kansas State Teachers College. As his career in higher education progressed, Johnson served several notable land-grant universities. Prior to coming to Nevada, Johnson was dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University (CSU). He joined CSU in 2003 as vice provost for agriculture and outreach and dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, and also served as interim director of Colorado Cooperative Extension and interim state forester of Colorado State Forest Service, both hosted through CSU. From 1992 to 2003, Johnson was dean of the Kansas State University College of Agriculture and director of the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service. Prior to that he was a member of the faculty at Oklahoma State University and served in faculty and administrative roles at North Carolina State University. 

Johnson received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Emporia State University in Kansas, which named him a Distinguished Alumnus in 1994. His advanced degrees include a master of technology in international development from North Carolina State University, a master of economics from Michigan State University and a doctorate of agriculture economics from Michigan State University. Johnson’s research and teaching have been based in economics, with an emphasis on national and international food distribution systems. 

The desired characteristics of the University of Nevada, Reno president were summarized in the Presidential Prospectus, prepared after a series of open meetings with campus and external constituents and approved by the President Search and Institutional Advisory Committees. 

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Editor’s note: The following audio-video files are available at this site:

  • Johnson’s reaction to having been named president.
  • Johnson addresses his vision for the University of Nevada, Reno.
  • Johnson addresses his plans for the first 100 days in office.
  • Footage of the Nevada Board of Regents meeting. 

Photo cutline: Marc Johnson was today named the 16th president of the University of Nevada, Reno by a vote of the Nevada Board of Regents. Photo by Theresa Danna-Douglas. 

Nevada’s land-grant university founded in 1874, the University of Nevada, Reno has an enrollment of 18,000 students and is ranked in the top tier of the nation’s best universities. Part of the Nevada System of Higher Education, the University has the system’s largest research program and is home to the state’s medical school. With outreach and education programs in all Nevada counties and with one of the nation’s largest study-abroad consortiums, the University extends across the state and around the world. For more information, visit 

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