CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–November 19, 2015. Robert L. Johnson returns to his alma mater, Roosevelt University, on Dec. 11 to deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree.
A pioneering business executive, Johnson was the first African-American vice president of Sears, Roebuck & Company, where in 1979 he was given responsibility for all the buying departments for men’s apparel.
Johnson, a 1958 Roosevelt graduate and currently a life trustee of the University, will address graduates of Roosevelt’s Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Performing Arts, Education and Professional Studies at the 11 a.m. ceremony being held in the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.
Ali Malekzadeh, president of Roosevelt, said the University “is delighted to honor Bob Johnson for his many business, civic and philanthropic contributions. Mr. Johnson is one of our most distinguished and caring alumni and we are pleased to award him with our highest recognition, an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.”
After graduating from Roosevelt and serving two years in the Army and five years as an assistant housing manager with the Chicago Housing Authority, Johnson applied to Sears where he was hired as one of the company’s first African-American management trainees. That job was the beginning of a 25-year career at the giant retailer, during which time he had 11 different positions.
At the age of 55, he voluntarily retired from Sears to pursue an entirely different business opportunity. He formed Johnson Bryce, Inc., a minority-owned firm that prints and laminates packaging for food and other consumer products. He managed the firm for 15 years before selling it to another entrepreneur.
Johnson also has been active in helping others achieve a college degree. He is the principal supporter of a program at Roosevelt for African-American high school students called the Black Male Leadership Academy. The program has two components: a summer institute that allows students to live in Roosevelt dorm rooms and attend a wide array of social and cultural events; and a Saturdays program during the school year where students receive mentoring and college preparation. The program’s goal is to have its teen participants complete high school and enroll in a college that is a good fit for them.
A resident of Evanston, Johnson has been a Roosevelt trustee since 1988 and formerly served on the University’s Alumni Board of Governors. In addition, he is a former member of the Board of Directors of the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank.