Eric Johnson Honored with Ballou Medal

Advancement leader recognized for extraordinary service to Tufts University

Since its establishment in 1939 by President Leonard Carmichael and the university trustees, the Hosea Ballou Medal for Distinguished Service had only been given 24 times, to members of the Tufts community, in recognition of exceptional service to the university.

Now it’s been awarded 25 times.

As part of a celebration of his service to the university earlier this month, Eric Johnson, former senior vice president of University Advancement and now senior philanthropic advisor to President Sunil Kumar, was awarded the Ballou Medal by the president.

In bestowing the medal on Johnson, Kumar took care to cite both his professional achievements as well as his personal traits.

“It is a testament to Eric’s character as a leader and a colleague that so many of you have committed to staying and serving here for so many years,” said Kumar, addressing a gathering of current and former colleagues—as well as Johnson’s family and friends—at a February 1 celebration in Joyce Cummings Center on the Medford/Somerville campus. “I am grateful to Eric for fostering a spirit of commitment, service, integrity, and excellence in our advancement division,” said Kumar.

Johnson used the occasion to thank colleagues—including former colleagues who joined the celebration—for all that they have accomplished together in advancing the mission of Tufts. He also expressed gratitude for the friendship and support of “amazing academic and volunteer leaders, faculty, and staff [he has] had the privilege of working with.”

Johnson also shared some anecdotes from his 35-plus years at Tufts, including how he got his start as a marathon runner.

An invitation from then-president Larry Bacow to join him in training with Tufts’ marathon team served as Johnson’s introduction to the sport. Among the problems Johnson recalled were Bacow’s being faster and in better shape—and liking to discuss prospect strategy while doing ten-mile runs. For his own part, he remembered having “trouble just breathing, let alone talking with [Bacow].”

But Johnson, who is now well known in Tufts circles as an experienced marathoner, added—with characteristic modesty—that he did “manage to get into good enough shape to pull it off.”

Beginning in 2012, Johnson led University Advancement, overseeing the university’s fundraising, alumni relations, advancement administration, and donor relations functions across Tufts’ undergraduate colleges as well as its graduate and professional schools.

During his tenure as the division’s senior vice president, more than 132,000 donors came together to raise $1.53 billion for Brighter World: The Campaign for Tufts, making it the most successful fundraising endeavor in Tufts history.

By its conclusion in June 2023, the comprehensive campaign had inspired unprecedented generosity from alumni, parents, and friends of Tufts, inspiring a confidence in the “timeless values and distinctive strengths of Tufts,” said Peter R. Dolan, A78, A08P, chairman of the Tufts Board of Trustees, at the time that the campaign ended.

Under Johnson’s leadership, Brighter World dramatically improved Tufts’ ability to advance three overarching priorities: transformative experiences (including financial aid, student housing, athletic facilities, and new academic spaces); research and innovation; and global impact.

Brighter World was Johnson’s fourth capital campaign at Tufts. He played a key role in the success of Tufts’ $1.2 billion Beyond Boundaries campaign, completed in 2011. During that campaign, he served as executive director of development, in addition to acting as principal gift officer, working with President Larry Bacow and other senior administrators on leadership gifts to the university.

Johnson began his Tufts career as a major gifts officer in the School of Arts and Sciences. Both of Johnson’s parents graduated from the Tufts class of 1954. He holds a B.A. in political science from George Washington University.

Past Ballou Medal honorees include engineer and inventor Vannevar Bush, A1913 and Nobel Laureate Allan Cormack. Tufts notables who have been recognized with the medal include: Adele Fleet Bacow; Bill Gehling, A74, AG79, A05P; executive director of alumni engagement and former athletics director; Robyn Gittleman, former ExCollege director; Celeste Mahoney, former director of special events; and Alan Solomont, A70, A08P, Omidyar Dean Emeritus, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life.

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