The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

What you need to know about Linfield’s new interim president Rebecca “Becky” Johnson

Photo Courtesy of Linfield University
Photo Courtesy of Linfield University

On November 2, 2023, Linfield University President Miles K. Davis informed the University’s Board of Trustees that he would be stepping down after five years in the position. This announcement shocked the Linfield students and faculty, and left the Linfield community with many questions.

Chief among them was, “Who will take Davis’ place and what will that transition look like in the middle of the year?”

That question was answered on Tuesday, December 26, 2023, just about a week prior to the start of Jan-term classes when the university announced the hiring of Rebecca “Becky” Johnson as the interim president. The announcement released by Linfield provided background of Johnson’s accomplishments before accepting the interim president role. She had a long teaching career at Oregon State University and also spent 12 years as vice president at OSU’s Cascades Campus in Bend.

Johnson’s professional background in higher education made her a strong candidate. However, during this transition period it is still important to the Linfield student body to learn about her as a person and what she can do for the university during her time here. Johnson came out of retirement and moved from Bend to McMinnville to take on this position in the middle of the academic year. With no apparent connection to Linfield, this might seem random to some but Johnson knew what she was doing when she agreed to take on the challenge.

“I actually was kind of restless,” said Johnson. “I’d been retired for over a year and a half and after working my entire life, I was feeling like I needed something else to do. So just thinking about what Linfield needed, I thought that I could probably do most of those things.”

The first thing to note about President Johnson is that she is easy to talk to. She’s very personable and immediately makes you feel comfortable. She’s open to conversations with students and staff and genuinely wants to get to know Linfield more.

Linfield Women’s Basketball Head Coach Casey Bunn-Wilson knew Johnson from her days playing basketball at Oregon State University. Johnson is a huge women’s basketball fan and followed the Oregon State team closely while teaching economics at the College of Forestry.

“From what I remember in college, she was very supportive, welcoming and encouraging,” said Bunn-Wilson. “I’ve met with her a couple of times here at Linfield and she’s been very present and willing to have conversations while on campus in just the few short weeks that she’s been here.”

It’s important for a president to be present on campus, especially at such a small and tight-knit university such as Linfield. Getting to know the students is something Johnson is looking to do, and with her experience at a much larger school, it’s going to be easier to have one-on-one conversations at a school with 34,000 less students.

“It’s more difficult to interact with 30,000 students so I mostly interacted with leadership and we’d meet once a month and I’d learn about what their issues are,” said Johnson. “But obviously here it’s way smaller and much easier to meet students and participate in some of the student activities around campus.”

Being engaged on campus with the various activities that happen throughout the year is another huge piece to being a president at a small university and it’s something that Linfield students are looking for in Johnson.

“It would be nice to see our president start new traditions here,” said freshman Josephine Gunderson. “It would be cool to have more fall and spring events to help make Linfield closer.”

Johnson seems to be the right person for the job as she has seen and dealt with it all over her years in the education system.

“There is nothing that I haven’t experienced,” Johnson said. “I did this for 37 years at Oregon State University. So whether it’s athletics, academics, student clubs, finances or recruitment, I’ve been through it all.”

Her previous experience clearly will help her guide Linfield during her time here and allow for the next president to come into a stable situation.

“My main goal is to have this opportunity look really attractive to the next pool of candidates that we are going to have for a permanent president,” said Johnson. “They would like to come into a situation where the budget looks good, where enrollment is at least stable and preferably growing and where there’s a great culture in terms of how this administration and faculty get along and how students interact with faculty.”

Johnson is the interim president that Linfield University needs in a complicated and unusual situation. She’s stepping into the challenge and is ready to do whatever she can to help the university continue to thrive.

“I think that it says a lot about a person’s character that will come in and help a university that is in a very unique situation,” Bunn-Wilson said. “I don’t know how often presidents leave in the middle of the school year but for [Johnson] to come in and be so willing to help knowing that it’s not the best situation to walk into, it’s so telling of who she is as a person.”

Between her experience and the welcoming personality that Johnson brings in, Linfield is in good hands for the next 12-18 months that she will be at the helm. If you happen to see her and her 10-month-old chocolate Labrador Oakley taking their daily walk around campus, do not hesitate to stop and say hi to them both.

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  • A

    Aileen F SoltMar 20, 2024 at 7:13 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful leader. Very nice article .

  • K

    Keith SoltMar 19, 2024 at 8:07 pm

    Very nice article, well written and informative!