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W&L Emeritus Professor Robert Johnson Dies

Robert Stanley Johnson, the Cincinnati Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus, at Washington and Lee University, died on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011, at Augusta Medical Center. He was 73.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Patrick’s Church in Lexington at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, August 17, 2011, with burial to follow in the Stonewall Jackson Cemetery. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m.

Johnson joined Washington and Lee’s faculty in 1965. He attained the rank of full professor in 1975. Among other accomplishments, he served two terms as chair of the department mathematics. As chair, Johnson reorganized the basic computer science courses and organized and directed student-run help sessions in the elementary level courses. In 2004, the University honored Professor Johnson with the dedication of a classroom in Robinson Hall on the historic Colonnade.

In 1985, he was appointed to the Cincinnati Professor of Mathematics. The professorship recognizes the Society of Cincinnati of Virginia’s gift of its assets to Washington College in 1802.

“Bob Johnson served Washington and Lee with great distinction for 38 years,” said Washington and Lee University President Kenneth P. Ruscio. “He was highly regarded by generations of students as a teacher and was also a valued colleague. We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Johnson was an unusually devoted mentor to generations of W&L students, many of whom became devoted friends in later years. His range of interests — in music, history, literature, science —- made him a valued friend to a wide circle of friends who prized his wit, his enthusiasm and his steadfastness.

Johnson’s fields of teaching specialty were algebra and fundamental mathematics concepts. With his mathematics department colleague Tom Vinson, Johnson was author of a textbook, Elementary Linear Algebra. He was a member of the Mathematical Association of America, the American Mathematical Society, the American Association of University Professors, and the Sigma XI honorary society.

An avid traveler, he visited many parts of the world often accompanied by friends, former students and family. Locally he was a devoted congregant at St. Patrick’s Church and a member of the choir. He was also a active member of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities and served as treasurer of the local chapter.

Johnson was born in Pikeville, Ky., on Nov. 23, 1937, the son of Marvin Forrest and Norcie Wicker Johnson. He grew up in Frankfort, Ky., and graduated from Georgetown College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned his Ph. D.

He is survived by his brother, Glen, and sister-in-law, Sipra, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., a niece, Denise Johnson, of Washington, D.C., and a nephew, Robert Alexander Johnson, of Portland, Oregon.