Raymond L. Johnson - Professor Emeritus of Mathematics

Dr. Raymond L. Johnson is recognized as a Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring for his tireless and highly successful mentoring efforts with students from groups underrepresented in mathematics.

Dr. Raymond Johnson was the first African-American admitted to Rice University (1964) where he earned a doctorate in mathematics in 1969 (his dissertation was “A Priori Estimates and Unique Continuation Theorems for Second Order Parabolic Equations.”) Retiring after 40 years from the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP), Dr. Johnson has returned to Rice as a visiting professor.

He joined the UMCP faculty in 1980, becoming the first African-American to be promoted to Associate Professor and the first to serve as Chair of the Department of Mathematics. His research began with work on non-well posed problems which led him to the study of Besov spaces and harmonic analysis. His interest in harmonic analysis continues today.

At the University of Maryland, Dr. Johnson personally mentored numerous graduate students, with the largest number of students advised in the period between 1990-2009. During that time, 53 underrepresented minority students pursued their M.A. and/or Ph.D. degrees. All but one of these students was African-American, and 22 of the students were African- American women.

Many of his graduate students graduated from smaller, Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Dr. Johnson knew a successful mentoring plan must prepare these students for the challenges they would face in the transition to a majority institution the size of UMCP.

Substantive components of Dr. Johnson’s mentoring plan involved regular group meetings to develop a sense of community, as well as course selection and counseling. Keenly aware of the need to familiarize minority students with inter-disciplinary environments, Dr. Johnson encouraged his protégés to interact with minority graduate students across department lines.

Of Dr. Johnson’s 53 graduate students, 23 completed their Ph.Ds in mathematics. In 2000, history was made at UMCP when the first African-American woman earned a Ph.D. in mathematics; in fact, three African-American women graduated at the same time. Of the 23 Ph.D. recipients, 14 of them currently hold academic appointments at major U.S. institutions of higher education, and three of them are tenured professors.

Dr. Johnson’s honors and affiliations include:
• The AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award in 2007.
• Distinguished minority faculty award from the University of Maryland, 1986. • Visiting Faculty Fellow, IBM Watson Research Center, 1977
• Research grant from the Swedish Institut Mittag-Leer, 1974-75.
• Graduate Research Fellowship, National Science Foundation