Johnson State College - History and Governance

History and Governance

Both the college, and the town of Johnson are named for William Samuel Johnson (1727-1819), American jurist, statesman and educator. The town of Johnson, and a part of neighboring Cambridge, Vermont together once made up the King's College Tract, a land grant chartered by King George III in 1774 for the eventual expansion of King's College in New York, today's Columbia University. Following the Declaration of Independence, and the emergence of the Vermont Republic, the town was instead granted to William Samuel Johnson by Vermont's Council of Censors in 1782. Johnson represented Connecticut in the Continental Congress, and argued for Vermont's admission to the federal Union. He later became president of Columbia University. John Chesamore founded Johnson State College as Johnson Academy, a grammar school instructing students in Greek, Latin, algerbra and geometry. In 1867 the school became a Vermont state "normal school", a term based on the French école normale – a school to educate teachers. Early on Johnson embraced the ideas of learning from experience, and the role of the student in directing some part of their curriculum. The college was among the first Vermont universities to introduce electives. Through the early to mid-twentieth century Johnson emerged as a college of the liberal arts and natural sciences.

A commitment to educating the whole student in an interdisciplinary manner, begun in the 1920s and 1930s, set in place a history of bringing visiting poets, playwrights, politicians, and artists to the college. That tradition continues, bringing filmmakers, political and spiritual leaders, and artists. Recent visitors to the campus include Japanese and Cuban drummers, New Orleans jazz musicians, and Buddhist monks who installed an environmental art work at Lower Pond.

The original campus was built in the village of Johnson and over time, the college expanded; slowly building higher upon what is now called College Hill, finally settling upon a plateau above the village with a view of Sterling Mountain and the Sterling Mountain Range. Today the college is a part of the Vermont State Colleges, a consortium of five colleges governed by a common board of trustees, chancellor, and Council of Presidents, each college with its own president and deans.

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