Deaths: Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson, UIC professor emeritus of political science.
Richard Johnson, UIC professor emeritus of political science. Photo: Richard Johnson family

Richard M. Johnson, 85, professor emeritus of political science, died Jan. 7.

Johnson, whose research interests included American politics and government, urban politics and political behavior, served in a variety of academic and administrative leadership positions over three decades at UIC before retiring in August 2000.

He was assistant and associate professor of political science at SUNY-Buffalo before coming to UIC, where he was hired as professor and head of political science in 1969. He served as associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from 1972 to 1974 and acting dean from 1973 to 1974. He was chair of political science from 1987 to 1991.

As a university administrator, he was associate vice chancellor of academic affairs from 1976 to 1977, acting vice chancellor of academic affairs from 1977 to 1978, and vice chancellor for academic affairs from 1978 to 1986. 

In the latter role, he helped to establish the Honors College and was a key supporter of the development of international programs for faculty. Always looking to the future growth of UIC, he proposed building campus dormitories and expanding the university to include a law school. He was also elected to two three-year terms as a member of the UIC Senate.

“He was critical in building UIC and building the department of political science,” said Dick Simpson, professor of political science. “He made the department a national leader and important in American urban politics education.”

Simpson also recalled Johnson’s wry sense of humor, particularly as it related to academia, and his advocacy for students to learn courtroom skills and trial techniques in a competitive setting through the creation of UIC’s collegiate mock trial team in 1990.

“He helped build up the funding and make the arrangements for the program to be successful,” Simpson said.

Upon his retirement, Johnson became active in the State University Annuitants Association (SUAA), serving as the legislative director for the UIC chapter and then as president of the state association.

Since the early 1980s, Johnson was a generous donor to UIC and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Via Heartland International, a nonprofit established by his wife, Karen Egerer, he worked on civic education and programs focused on democracy, economic and social development in foreign countries.

The couple considered international study and exposure to other cultures as important experiences for undergraduate students. In 2018, they established the Professor Richard M. Johnson and Karen A. Egerer LAS Study Abroad Scholarship in support of students majoring in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to participate in study abroad programs.

“We are deeply honored that Professor Johnson and his wife chose to establish such an important fund to continue their outstanding legacy at UIC,” said Wendy Irvine, director of advancement and assistant dean in the college.  “Their generous support will help students with demonstrated financial need discover new cultures and gain life-changing study abroad experiences for generations to come.”

Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Johnson graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Miami University of Ohio and was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy from 1956 to 1961. As part of his service, he was operations department head on the U.S.S. Allen M. Sumner for three years before working as an instructor of government at the U.S Naval Academy from 1959 to 1961.

He earned a master’s degree from American University and a doctoral degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While studying at UIUC, he spent six months as a legislative session assistant to former Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner.

In addition to Egerer, Johnson is also survived by two daughters, Kathleen Johnson and Deborah Johnson Bousquet; a stepson, Paul Minnice, and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held from 2-4 p.m. Feb. 1 in the Student Services Building (SSB), Rooms A, B, and C, 1200 W. Harrison St.

Memorial donations may be made to the UIC Professor Richard M. Johnson and Karen A. Egerer LAS Study Abroad Scholarship Fund, University of Illinois Foundation, 1305 W. Green St., MC 386, Urbana, Illinois, 61801 or online. The gift fund number is 774895. For assistance, please contact Linda Macias, assistant director of donor relations, 312-413-3281 or

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