An announcement Monday night from Johnson said she will transition from her role as president in May, at the end of the current academic year. Her contract was set to expire in August 2025.
“We have been able to achieve so much, on so many different fronts, despite considerable adversity including the COVID-19 pandemic,” Johnson said in a statement. “I am very proud of all that we have accomplished together. … I have made the difficult decision to step down as president following commencement at the end of the academic year. This will allow a search for the next president to proceed and adequate time for me to assist with a seamless transition.”
A source told NBC4 that Johnson was originally set to announce her resignation Tuesday following a request from the university’s board of trustees, with Johnson allegedly having a contentious relationship with several members of the board. Additional sources said Johnson is being held personally responsible for the departure of at least two high-ranking university officials.
Watch: Dr. Kristina Johnson on NBC4’s Tell Me More
University Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Hiroyuki Fujita thanked Johnson for her work in the resignation announcement.
“On behalf of the entire Board of Trustees, I want to thank Dr. Johnson for her dedication to the university, especially her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Fujita said. “We congratulate her on her many achievements and wish her our very best in her future endeavors.”
Johnson’s contract lays out terms as to what would happen should she be fired, either with cause or without cause. However, there are no specifics as to what will happen with Johnson’s resignation.
Ohio State chose Johnson as the university’s 16th president in June of 2020 while she was serving as the chancellor of the State University of New York. Former Ohio State President Michael Drake announced his retirement in November 2019 after a five-year tenure and was named the 21st president of the University of California in July 2020.
“We are pleased beyond measure to welcome Dr. Johnson to Ohio State,” said then-Board of Trustees Chairman Gary R. Heminger at the time of Johnson’s hiring. “Her range of knowledge, service and accomplishments across sectors and throughout her career is nothing short of remarkable.”
Leaving two-and-half years into her five-year contract, Johnson will have served the second-shortest tenure behind former president Walter Scott, who served from 1881 to 1883.
Johnson’s incoming pay was more than $1.4 million including a base salary of $900,000, bonuses, and other benefits. In her initial offer letter, Johnson was to receive an $85,000 fringe benefit allowance, a $200,000 yearly retirement plan contribution, $35,000 in moving expenses, and membership in two social clubs. In addition, she had the option to remain at the university as a distinguished university professor.
Following the completion of her contract, Johnson and her wife were also eligible for lifetime medical care under the Wexner Medical Center Executive Health Program and lifetime eligibility to purchase football and men’s basketball tickets.
“Ohio State has always been a special place to me – well beyond its standing as one of the most respected teaching, research and patient-care institutions in the world,” Johnson said at the time of her hiring. “I am humbled to be selected to lead this great land-grant university, and I look forward to meeting with students, faculty and staff to begin our work together.”
Johnson is an engineer, an inventor, and during the Obama administration, was the undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. She earned her doctorate at Stanford and is said to be an advocate for women’s leadership and STEM education.
Current enrollment at the university is 61,677 on the Columbus campus with 67,772 students in total.