Remembering NACUBO President Susan Whealler Johnston

Susan Johnston

It is with extreme sadness that SACUBO shares the news that Susan Whealler Johnston passed away on August 12. Johnston served as president and CEO of the National Association of College and University Business Officers since August 2018 and was its first female leader. She was a champion for students and understood the power of higher education and the positive impact it had on students’ lives.

Johnston also understood the value colleges and universities provide. She worked throughout her career to help improve ways institutions operated, seeking to improve the infrastructure and supports needed to better serve students, particularly those who have been historically underserved.

At NACUBO, she led with grace, gratitude, and humor. Johnson transformed the association in many ways. Her compassionate leadership, which emphasized student success and inclusion for all, will leave a lasting impact on NACUBO, SACUBO and the other regions, and the business officer profession.

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"With Susan Johnston's passing, we have lost a major advocate for higher education. Over the past 4 years, I've had the pleasure of working with and getting to know her. I found Susan to be one of those people who was easy to talk to, a great listener, and always seemed to be interested in the discussion. As President of NACUBO, she always made it a point to attend our SACUBO conferences and was always supportive of our organization. She will be greatly missed."

John Crawford, SACUBO President 2022-2023, NACUBO Board of Directors

“Susan Johnston was a dear friend and colleague to SACUBO and Furman University, and she will be missed. Her vision and leadership at NACUBO were critical to the Strategic Blueprint that she rolled out in 2019. Chief Business Officers now and in the future will benefit from her vision and dedication to our profession. My condolences go out to her family and the NACUBO team.”

Susan Maddux, SACUBO President 2020 – 2022, NACUBO Board of Directors (Secretary 2020-2021)

“Susan and I came to NACUBO at the same time in August 2018. I was immediately impressed by her and remain so to this day. Her grace, kindness, thoughtfulness, and professionalism have had a profoundly positive impact on NACUBO as an association, on its board, leadership, and staff, and on me personally. I am grateful for her contributions to our profession; higher education and NACUBO are better because of her leadership and service. Her family, loved ones, friends, and colleagues are in Cindy’s and my thoughts and prayers. She will be greatly missed. Rest In peace Susan and Joe.”

Russ Hannah, SACUBO President 2019-2020, NACUBO Board Vice Chair 2022-2023

“Susan leaves behind an amazing legacy in higher education and especially in her work with NACUBO. Her high energy and her courage, combined with wisdom and a firm but gentle spirit, made an impact on the many institutions with whom she worked and on the people whose lives she touched. Even in tough discussions, she was a good listener, measuring her responses with logic and fairness. The first time I met Susan, I felt a connection that has continued to this day. She was my friend, and I will miss her.”

Wilma Phillips, SACUBO President 2018-2019, NACUBO Board Secretary 2019-2020

“One of the most gratifying projects of my career was to serve on the search committee that brought Susan Whealler Johnston to NACUBO. She was simply the right leader at the right time. Although the organization was able to enjoy her guidance for only a short time, she was able to bring a fresh perspective, implement exciting new programs, and provide stable leadership through an unprecedented era. Dr. Johnson served on the boards of two prominent SACUBO members – Rollins College and Radford University. She will long be remembered by the higher education community for her many contributions. My heart goes out to the NACUBO staff, Board, and member institutions.”

Mary Lou Merkt, SACUBO President 2014-2015, NACUBO Board Chair 2017-2018

Susan had a strong commitment to higher education, especially to NACUBO. She understood that a successful business officer would lead to a successful institution and more importantly, successful students. Her subtle smile and soft voice representing college and university business officers will be missed.

Ron Rhames, SACUBO President 2011-2012, NACUBO Board Chair 2014-2015