July 16, 2014

SUNY Empire State College Honors Bob Johnson of Rochester With Citizen Laureate Award

This year the college recognized Robert Johnson ’96, noted philanthropist, businessman and community activist, with the Citizen Laureate Award at its signature Black History Month event.

“I am proud to join with Metropolitan New York Center faculty, students, alumni, friends and staff in honoring the many contributions African-Americans, and in particular our African-American alumni, have made to our college and the greater society where we all live,” said Merodie A. Hancock, president of the college. “Robert Johnson is a most deserving recipients of our prestigious collegewide award and we are grateful to count him among our 73,000 alumni.”

About Robert Johnson

Born and raised in the Chicago projects, Johnson became one of the most prominent businessmen in upstate New York, and proprietor of the largest minority-owned car dealership in the country: Bob Johnson Chevrolet.

Promising his mother that he would someday finish, he left high school at 17 and joined the military. Johnson later earned his GED and enrolled in junior college. The tipping point in his professional life came when he purchased a new car from an African-American friend who owned a Cadillac/Chevrolet dealership in Wisconsin. This transaction fueled his entrepreneurial spirit. After a two-year training program with a Chevy dealership in Indiana, he was awarded a Chevy franchise in Buffalo, N.Y., which he relocated to Rochester in 1985. In 2001, Johnson retired, sold the business, which operates to this day under his name, to its current owner.

Johnson has actively served the Western New York community by giving freely of his time to many nonprofit organizations. He served on the Nazareth College Board of Trustees, was chairman of the Rochester Urban League and is a member of the Empire State College Foundation Board of Directors.

In 2001, Johnson and his late wife, Carol, established a scholarship fund with the college to assist minority students with financial need. Currently he sits as a member on Ringling College of Art and Design Board of Trustees.

About SUNY Empire State College

Empire State College, the nontraditional, open college of the SUNY system, educates more than 20,000 students worldwide at eight international sites, more than 35 locations in the state of New York, online, as well as face to face and through a blend of both, at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels.

The average age of an undergraduate student at the college is 35 and graduate students average age 40.

Most Empire State College students are working adults. Many are raising families and meeting civic commitments in the communities where they live, while studying part time.

In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each undergraduate student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career.

Working with their mentors, students design an individual degree program and engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or through a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to choose where, when and how to learn.

Students have the opportunity to enroll five times during the year.

The college’s 73,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more.

The college was first established in 1971 by the SUNY Board of Trustees with the encouragement of the late Ernest L. Boyer, chancellor of the SUNY system from 1970 to 1977.

Boyer also served as United States commissioner of education during the administration of President Jimmy Carter and then as president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

More information about the college is available at www.esc.edu.