Joliet, Ill. – As part of its 120th anniversary celebration the Brno University of Technology (BUT) in Brno, Czech Republic,  BUT awarded an honorary degree of Doctor honoris causa to University of St. Francis President Arvid C. Johnson, Ph.D., on June 19, 2019.

In 1909, the Czech Technical University (now known as BUT), awarded its first Doctor honoris causa. Since that time, only 66 other honorary degrees have been awarded by the university. Past honorees include Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla; Edvard Benes, former President of Czechoslovakia; and Vaclav Klaus, former President of the Czech Republic.  Mexico’s Sebastian Diaz de la Torre, Ph.D. was also awarded an honorary degree of doctor honoris causa this year alongside Johnson.

In his ceremonial address, Johnson discussed the origins of BUT’s academic partnerships with USF and Dominican University (where Johnson served as a professor and Dean of the School of the Brennan School Business prior to joining USF) that have since, collectively, produced 18 cohorts of MBA graduates.

“When Rector (Petr) Stepanek notified me that the Scientific Board of the Brno University of Technology had approved the proposal of the Faculty of Business and Management to confer upon me the degree of Doctor honoris causa, I was certainly honored – and even thrilled.  But, at the same time, I recognized that this proposal was not so much about honoring me as celebrating the many years of partnership between VUT and its American partners in the Chicagoland area,” Johnson said.

Later in his address, Johnson explored the concept of leadership, focusing specifically on what he feels is the most important kind of leadership – servant leadership.

“Leadership is not about power and influence; it’s about service. Leadership is not about you; it’s about those you serve. Leadership is only authentic when it is ‘servant leadership’ and THAT’S when leadership matters,” Johnson said as he paid homage to Robert Greenleaf, who coined the term in his 1970 essay, “The Servant as Leader,” and who founded the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.

Johnson concluded his address by noting that servant leaders must “love” those they aspire to lead – where, “as James Hunter notes, love is the ‘the act of extending yourself for others by identifying and meeting their legitimate needs and seeking their greatest good’.”

“I believe that, through service, we recognize the Good (the Divine) both in ourselves and in each other, which enables us to put others’ needs before our own.  This is a service – a leadership style – based in joy, not obligation,” Johnson said.

New USF Board of Trustees chairperson Joseph T. Mallof, attended at the ceremony and feels that the honor recognizes more than an academic partnership between USF and BUT.

“I was honored to be present at the ceremony honoring Arvid with an honorary doctorate degree.  I believe this does not just recognize the U.S. MBA program that USF and Arvid have developed with BUT over many years.  I think it also recognizes the moral aspects of a Catholic and Franciscan education that USF provides and Arvid personifies, which fills a need and is valued by BUT and its students.  Arvid’s acceptance speech, that reflected on servant leadership and its religious foundation, addressed this eloquently and courageously,” Mallof said.

During Johnson’s time with the university, he has also helped USF establish international academic partnerships with the University of Finance-Marketing in Ho Chi Minh City and the University of Economics and Business in Hanoi.

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves over 4,000 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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