Campus: CSU, Stanislaus -- February 23, 2001

Don Johnson Named Honorary Consul By Ethiopian Leaders

The Ethiopian government recently named Dr. Don Johnson, adjunct professor with California State University, Stanislaus, an honorary consul of Ethiopia for the West Coast region of the United States. The Turlock resident received recognition for his long-standing devotion to improving the lives of Ethiopians.

Dr. Aseffa Abreha, a minister in the Ethiopian Prime Minister's office, announced Dr. Johnson's citation during a late January visit to CSU Stanislaus accompanied by a delegation from the Ethiopian government. The visit provided the occasion for the University and the government of Ethiopia to renew their commitment to partnering in various programs, including the CSU Stanislaus Ethiopia Project and the American University of Ethiopia, which is in the planning stage.

"Dr. Johnson has been instrumental in bringing people and organizations together to help Ethiopia in all areas," said Abreha, General Manager of the Ethiopian Rehabilitation and Development Fund. The fund was established to help rebuild the country after many years of civil war.

A team of American filmmakers accompanied a shipment of powdered milk to Ethiopia from San Joaquin Valley dairies last summer, documenting how the drought and famine-plagued country is helping itself overcome severe poverty problems. Johnson put his Ethiopian contacts in touch with Stevinson dairy farmer Tony Azevedo, who spearheaded the donation drive. Johnson also acted as liaison between the film crew and the Ethiopians.

CSU Stanislaus President Dr. Marvalene Hughes applauded Johnson's honorary appointment, noting his long-standing service.

"I very much admire the way Dr. Johnson has demonstrated his commitment to the welfare of Ethiopia," President Hughes said. "His devotion to this country is a key factor, and he is facilitative in enabling the University to develop a promising partnership."

Having spent four years in Ethiopia and established close ties with many of its people, Johnson responded to the call for service.

"I wanted to focus on a country where I could help make a difference," Johnson said. "Ethiopia has a great need and the greatest potential of the countries I've had experience with. I know the country and have learned that the people there can do things for themselves if they get some technical assistance. They are appreciative of that, but they don't want it done for them. I see this as a two-way venture, since there are things they are doing there that can benefit people here."

A public health specialist, Johnson, 75, retired from the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1985. His special assignments have included the Philippines, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Switzerland. Since retiring, he has provided his international expertise as a consultant in Southeast Asia, Africa, and three former Soviet republics.

Johnson said that dramatic progress has been made over the past year in the relationship between CSU Stanislaus and Ethiopia. Several University administrators, faculty and students have spent time in Ethiopia, planning the American University of Ethiopia, health worker and literacy training, and agricultural programs.

"Ethiopians value this contact with CSU Stanislaus, and there have been valuable exchanges as a result," Johnson said.

After receiving his doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley in 1958, Johnson taught for four years at his alma mater. His first international assignment was in Ethiopia on a U.S. International Cooperation project with his wife, Eva. He came back to California for jobs in Monterey and Alameda County before returning to do more public health training and supervise the establishment of 21 rural health centers.

Johnson has lived in the Turlock area for a number of years, drawn to the area after spending summers with his grandparents in Hilmar as a youngster.

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