Remembering and honoring the legacy of LaVonne Johnson, MPA '80

December 1, 2023

It is with great sadness that we share the passing of LaVonne Johnson, an alumna (MPA ‘80), benefactor, and friend of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA).  LaVonne demonstrated a passion for public service throughout her life, and she credited her GSPIA education for preparing her and empowering her with a sense of purpose and mission.  She also believed that young people could make a difference in tackling the world’s greatest challenges and wanted to use her philanthropy to help prepare them to do so.  In the late 1990s, LaVonne and her husband Glen expressed interest in supporting GSPIA’s efforts to train leaders of character and to encourage public institutions to be more accountable for performance and outcomes.  In 2006, the University formally recognized these programs as the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership, named in honor of Glen and LaVonne Johnson.

Photo of Glen and LaVonne Johnson with Dr. Kevin Kearns and former Chancellor Mark Nordenberg.Today, the Johnson Institute is a thriving center that seeks to enhance ethics and accountability in leadership through teaching, research, and public service.  Its programs help build capacity in the region’s nonprofit sector and develop future leaders for that sector, examine leadership best practices through research and case studies, and bring proven leaders to campus for lectures and discussion about today’s most pressing leadership challenges.  “For all of us, Glen and LaVonne’s commitment to developing future leaders for the public and nonprofit sectors is a true inspiration,” said Julia Santucci, Director of the Johnson Institute.  “Without their generosity, the Johnson Institute would not exist, and we would not be able to carry out our important leadership development and capacity building work," shared Dean Carissa Slotterback. “It is a true honor for GSPIA to continue to build on the legacy of service that LaVonne and Glen entrusted to us.”

We offer our deepest condolences to her family. Her obituary as well as the opportunity to share condolences and words of support can be found here. There will be a memorial service on Saturday, January 6, 2024 at 11:00 am at Marco Lutheran Church, 529 N. Collier Blvd, Marco Island, FL 34145. A memorial service in Pittsburgh will be held on Saturday, January 13, 2024 at 2:00 pm at First Lutheran Church, 615 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.