School of Nursing & Health Studies
Saturday, May 19, 2018
2 PM, Healy Lawn
Luci Baines Johnson
Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa
More than 50 years ago, today’s esteemed honoree arrived on Georgetown’s Hilltop with the dream of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Her arrival caused excitement on campus, much as it has today. A history of the school, written by the late Dr. Alma Woolley, notes the implementation of new security measures, including an accommodation for Secret Service presence, to ensure the safety of the child of President Lyndon Baines Johnson and First Lady Lady Bird Johnson.
Certainly, as Ms. Luci Baines Johnson recalls, Georgetown was a formative time for her, one during which significant lifelong friendships began. A particularly meaningful mentor to her – on campus and throughout her life – was the late Rev. William Kaifer of the Society of Jesus. To this day, Ms. Johnson fondly recalls the Jesuit priest’s genuine kindness to her and the way in which she and her family think through daily problems using the values they learned from him. Around the time of his death, Ms. Johnson told the campus publication Blue & Gray that he was “an unfailing friend and font of wisdom through the best of times and the worst of times of my life. He was my spiritual rock and my personal gift from God.”
Alas, finishing her degree at Georgetown was not possible as Ms. Johnson decided to marry, which was not permitted for nursing students during the early part of their education. As Ms. Johnson recounted to Texas Monthly magazine, “Every single day for three decades, it gnawed at me.” She turned that longtime desire into focused action and, after successfully running a company and raising a family, she attended St. Edward’s University. While there, she finished a bachelor of arts degree in communications and, not surprisingly, earned all A’s.
Although a policy of a bygone era prevented Ms. Johnson from receiving her Georgetown degree, she proudly states that “Georgetown never left me.” The spirit of cura personalis that she learned at Georgetown has helped inspire her to commit to a lifetime of volunteering for health care, in general, and nursing, in particular. She has served on advisory boards for Georgetown’s then-School of Nursing, the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing, and Boston University’s School of Medicine, as well as on the National League for Nursing’s Board of Review. She is an honorary member of Sigma Theta Tau, the international honor society for nursing, and she has testified before Congress on behalf of advanced academic nursing programs. She is a former trustee of Seton Hospital and is a lifetime trustee or trustee emerita for the Seton Fund, Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, and Boston University. She credits her experience in nursing for building a foundation of compassion that equipped her to provide daily care for her mother for five years after her stroke, as well as to serve as a hospice caregiver for both of her in-laws.
Last year, she warmly welcomed the Georgetown University community to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum during John Carroll Weekend in Austin. Her keynote remarks, before a highly engaged audience, spotlighted her father’s legislative achievements. Indeed, her distinguished stewardship of President Johnson’s legacy – including the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the Medicare Amendment and the Voting Rights Act, both in 1965; the Civil Rights Act of 1968; and “the war against poverty” – illustrates a continuing commitment to address both the clinical and social determinants that support or stymie society’s good health. These, too, are profound concerns of students, faculty, and alumni at the School of Nursing & Health Studies.
Ms. Johnson’s business acumen has served her well as board chair of the LBJ Holding Company, a trustee of the LBJ Foundation, and founder and limited partner of LBJ Family Wealth Advisors. Reflecting a spirit of service, she has also made giving back to the community a key priority. The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing has created several endowed positions, including a professorship, that bear her name. Four years ago, she and her husband, Mr. Ian Turpin, started a significant endowed fund at St. Edward’s University to, as the university reported, “enable undergraduates from migrant farmworker families to participate equally with their peers in activities proven to promote high achievement.” Her observation at the time of that gift – “To whom much is given, much more is expected” – offers a philosophy of life that truly resonates with this University’s goal of the formation of women and men to live generously in service to others.
Because of her deep interest in creating opportunity for others and her enduring commitment to nursing and promoting optimal health for all, Georgetown University, with extreme gratitude to count her among its alumni family, today confers upon Luci Baines Johnson the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa.
(SOURCE: Georgetown University 2018 Commencement Program; POSTED: May 4, 2018; CAPTION: Luci Baines Johnson and Patricia Cloonan, PhD, RN, dean of the School of Nursing & Health Studies, at the 2017 John Carroll Weekend in Austin)