December 12, 2016

Prof Johnson Remembered as Passionate, Caring, ‘a Professor’s Professor’

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Prof. Ann Johnson, science and technology studies, died early Sunday evening from a rare form of uterine cancer, according to a University press release. She was 51.

Johnson received her bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary and her Ph.D. from Princeton University. Her research focused on the history of engineering and the way engineers work in a modern industrial society.

Before coming to Cornell in 2015, Johnson was an assistant professor of theater technology at the University of Southern California, a history instructor at Fordham University and a professor of history and philosophy at the University of South Carolina.

This semester, Johnson taught courses in Life Sciences and Society and Philosophy of Medicine.

Prof. Bruce Lewenstein, chair of the department of science and technology studies, called Johnson a “professor’s professor, someone who connects big ideas and pursues questions, from the little details to the big ideas.”

Angelica Cullo ’17, who took two of Johnson’s courses this semester, said Johnson was a “passionate, caring professor” who treated her students “like her adult colleagues.”

“She was enthusiastic and interested in everything,” said Prof. Lawrence Glickman, history, who had previously coached youth soccer with Johnson in South Carolina.

Glickman added that Johnson was known for her generosity of spirit and willingness to collaborate with others on her research.

“Ann was a mentor and someone who built communities among her students and among her colleagues,” he said. “She was proud of her students, both undergraduates and graduates.”

As a professor, Johnson never said ‘no’ to a student who needed a letter of recommendation or a word of advice, Glickman said. “She was very supportive of her students and cared about them as people.”

Prof. Suman Seth, science and technology studies, said that no matter how busy Johnson was, she would always make time for the people who needed her, whether they be students or colleagues.

“She took her work, but not herself, very seriously,” he said. “A lot of us will simply remember someone who inspired and encouraged us.”

Even while Johnson had only been a faculty member at Cornell for three semesters, she was already involved in a number of collaborations, including the creation of a new minor in the College of Arts and Sciences — the history of capitalism.

“Ann was a superb historian of science and technology, a brilliant and dedicated teacher and a simply wonderful colleague,” Seth said.

Johnson is survived by her husband, Mark Stevens, and her son.