N.B.: The detail displayed about each honorary degree recipient varies, as
the database was compiled from a variety of sources. However, more information may
be available at the University Archives.
Convocation date: October 28, 1978
Discipline / contribution: public service
Citation / biographical information:
Eminent Chancellor, on behalf of the Council and Senate I present to you Albert Wesley Johnson.Degree received: Doctor of Laws
Dr. Johnson is known as one of the most perceptive and innovative public servants to have served the Governments of Saskatchewan and Canada. Though occupying the most senior of civil service positions in both governments, he has remained sensitive to the needs of individual citizens and conscious of the responsibility to utilize his influence to bring, to as many citizens as possible, the benefits of living in a wealthy, democratic society.
Dr. Johnson was born in Insinger, Saskatchewan and received his elementary, high school and undergraduate education in this province. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1942 from our University. This was followed by graduate work at the Universities of Toronto and Harvard where he earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Political Economy. Fortunately, Al Johnson has been able to combine this formal education with the common sense and practical approach to problem-solving that he probably learned from his friends and neighbors in Saskatchewan as he grew to maturity.
Al Johnson has consistently devoted his talents and his education to the improvement of the public sector services.
In 1946, he joined the Saskatchewan Civil Service where his talents and education were soon recognized. At the age of 29, he was appointed Deputy Provincial Treasurer of this Province. Following 16 years of service with the Government of Saskatchewan, Dr. Johnson moved to Ottawa where for 11 years he occupied very senior advisory positions, including two years as Deputy Minister of Welfare. Since that time, he has been President of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Citing Mr. Johnson's official duties and positions gives indication of a very impressive record. However, many of his most outstanding accomplishments are found in records and memoranda of advice of Ministers and Governments. These documents will show that, like the pioneers of Saskatchewan, he managed to see the various opportunities for collective action to resolve problems incapable of solution by individual and private action.
He was one of the key advisors to government when the Saskatchewan Hospital Services Plan was being implemented and when the financing of Medicare was under consideration. The problems associated with financing these ventures were considered insurmountable in the rest of Canada until Saskatchewan provided leadership. The administrative efficiency and inventiveness of Mr. Johnson and his colleagues was a very significant part of that leadership.
The recent hearings for the renewal of the C.B.C. license demonstrate that Dr. Johnson continues to be thorough and innovative in his approach to administration. These hearings also show his continuing commitment to the idea that our society should devote more of its resources to maintaining a distinctive Canadian culture and system of values. His proposals for the future roles of C.B.C. are directed toward increasing the awareness of Canadians to the fact that our cultural heritage and our distinctive Canadian identity can and should be used to enhance the quality of life in this country. The University of Saskatchewan has been a major benefactor of the Johnson energy, dedication and imagination. Dr. Johnson was for a number of years on the Board of Governors of the University and University Hospital, and established an attitude of cooperation and understanding in Government that continues to be of great benefit to us.
Eminent Chancellor, I present to you Albert Wesley Johnson, and ask that you confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Degree presented by: Leo Kristjanson
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