Saying Goodbye

to Dean Thomas Johnson


Thomas Johnson, PhD

Dean Dr. Benjamin Akande announced that he was leaving Webster University in May of 2015. The University asked Dr. Johnson, who was then serving as VP of Strategic initiatives, to assume the duties as the interim dean of the Walker School. His goals were simple. They were to maintain the high level of scholarship for which the Walker School is known, as well as make way for a smooth transition for the new dean.

He helped foster and continue the development of programs within the school and worked diligently to have a strong line of communication with the school’s faculty. “Our faculty is doing an outstanding job. One does not produce the number of credit hours and quality of teaching we have here at the Walker School without an excellent faculty,” said Dr. Johnson. “I have worked at several universities and we have one of the best faculties that I have ever worked with at any school. ”
In addition to full-time faculty, the Walker School has about 1000 adjunct faculty at all of its campuses. It was important to Dr. Johnson to make sure that they were fully utilized in to the school as well as possible. “Adjunct faculty are a tremendous resource for us. They bring real world experience in to the classroom. It’s important that they are fully integrated in to our program as much as possible.”

Seeing a need for more undergraduate programs, the school instituted several new degrees under his tenure. The Fine Entrepreneurship Certificate turned into a Bachelors degree and the school is currently working on one as a Masters degree. At the suggestion of a few high-ranking business people, Dr. Johnson instituted a series of courses in risk assessment, risk management, and risk mitigation.

Along the way, Dr. Johnson wanted the Walker School to be better connected to the St. Louis business community. “I wanted students to have an opportunity to engage with TREX and Cortex so they could learn how to start a business,” Dr. Johnson said. He contacted the Keiretsu Forum, which is the largest group of angel investors in the United States, so Walker students could work on an internship basis with high tech startups in development at Cortex and TREX. Walker students worked behind-the-scenes for angel investors seriously interested in creating startup companies. Via a live video feed over the internet, students in St. Louis and in Vienna were allowed to watch tech companies pitch angel investors in San Francisco. Because the school had signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), it also allowed Walker faculty to have access to their databases which allowed them to analyze and identify certain patterns of why some companies succeed and others do not. They had an unprecedented look at these pitches watching tech companies through several rounds in efforts of securing funding for their ventures.

One of Dr. Johnson’s passions is Cybersecurity. Under his tenure, he moved the Cybersecurity program to the computer science department and asked them to develop it in to a new masters degree. The school is currently working on a Computer Science Masters Degree in software engineering.

“We took the Cybersecurity program internationally, so it is now on Webster campuses in Vienna, Lyden, Amsterdam and Geneva. Lyden is close to a NATO facility and Vienna is close to the International Atomic Energy Headquarters, so we were able to draw adjunct faculty from both of them,” said Dr. Johnson. “We also created a site at the Hague Security Delta Center. There are many key people in the industry that either work or study at several of our campuses.”

He created a private cloud cyberlab in California and an emanations lab in Idaho that allows students, many who are the military, to work in realtime in a secured facility against actual cyber attacks. He took the program to the US Cybercommand to review the program and offer their recommendations to make it better. They suggested a course on Cybersecurity intelligence/counterintelligence, which was incorporated into the program. This helps organizations and corporations know who is targeting them and better protect their intellectual property.

“I am absolutely thrilled by the appointment of our new dean designate, Dr. Simone Cummings. She is extraordinary,” said Dr. Johnson. “She is going to do so much for this school and for the University. She is gifted in her interpersonal skills and strong in finance and MHA, which is her expertise. I have a lot of confidence in her leadership. Simone will do the job.”

Dr. Johnson will leave the Walker School to follow his passion and start the Cyberspace Research Institute, which will allow people to learn and share cybersecurity tactics and strategies. We wish him all the best.

“Our faculty is doing an outstanding job. One does not produce the number of credit hours and quality of teaching we have here at the Walker School without an excellent faculty.”
–Thomas Johnson, PhD