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Stephen Johnson posing for a professional headshot.
Stephen Johnson '73 served as chairman, president and CEO of McDermott International, Inc. before retiring in 2014. | Image: Courtesy of Stephen Johnson

Stephen Johnson '73 has established several planned gift endowments benefitting the Wm Michael Barnes '64 Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Texas A&M University. Distributions from these endowments will go toward the Stephen M. Johnson '73 Endowed Chair in Industrial and Systems Engineering, two endowed professorships, four endowed faculty fellowships and the Stephen M. Johnson '73 Industrial and Systems Excellence Endowment. 

A longtime supporter of Texas A&M and heritage member of the A&M Legacy Society, Johnson has given back to Texas A&M through financial contributions, as well as through his time and commitment. 

Johnson, who was born in West Virginia, grew up in Bellaire, Texas, and became an Eagle Scout in 1967. “Being an Eagle Scout sparked my interest in practical solutions to problems,” he said. “Other universities I visited didn't seem to have professors who used a practical approach to teaching engineering like Texas A&M. The ability to learn and employ practical concepts allowed me to eventually lead one of the largest companies in my sector.”

Like many students, Johnson said he didn't have the money to attend college. “I had to go to banks in Houston seeking financial assistance and was denied several times,” he said. “Eventually, I was given a tuition loan by Texas Commerce Bank after the chief loan officer found out I was going to be attending Texas A&M.”

Johnson said his education at Texas A&M prepared him for a lifetime of learning. “During my time at A&M, I learned how to focus, how to absorb financial, management and international business practices, and how to synthesize that knowledge with my technical education,” he said. “I used that approach throughout my career.”

Johnson said the inspiration behind his gifts fall into three main categories: providing students with opportunities, supporting the instructors and advancing the stature of Texas A&M as a whole.

Johnson aims to give both undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to attend Texas A&M and succeed in the global marketplace. “I can't pay back the kindnesses of all the people who helped me along the way, so I want to pay it forward,” he said. 

As for the instructors, he wants to make sure that the industrial and system engineering department has an opportunity to continue moving up in national rankings and continue to attract and retain the best talent available. “My wish is for this department at A&M to become the best in the country,” he said. “To be the best requires professors that have unique teaching and research talent, broad technical skills, and characteristics and understandings that will excite, educate and empower students.”

Johnson believes that by supporting both the students and instructors, the benefits to Texas A&M as a whole will follow. “I love this university and what it has done for me, and I want to see the students, faculty and the entire university flourish,” he said. “One of the most important things in my life was the education I received at Texas A&M and I want to give back in a tangible way.”

He hopes his gifts will promote continued growth of the university and that graduates of this department will contribute to society in meaningful ways. “Now, more than ever, the world needs the skills that engineering offers. We need engineering graduates who can adapt to working through cultural differences and across geopolitical lines to bring critical solutions to global issues,” he said. “I hope these graduates will serve societies globally.”

Johnson graduated from Texas A&M with his degree in industrial engineering in 1973 and received his professional engineering license in 1978. Prior to his retirement in 2014, Johnson served as chairman, president and CEO of McDermott International, Inc. He has also served on the board of directors of two New York Stock Exchange-listed companies and a member of the Business Roundtable. In 2005, Johnson was awarded the Texas A&M Distinguished Alumni Award in Industrial and Systems Engineering, and in 2015, he was awarded the Texas A&M Lifetime Achievement Award in Industrial and Systems Engineering. 

Looking back on his career, Johnson said, “I am most gratified by the projects that we designed and constructed worldwide for the people who needed them,” he said. “Projects in energy development, power generation, transportation systems, consumer product manufacturing and several others, improved the lives of many. For this reason, I believe engineering is a noble profession.”

How to Give

The College of Engineering is one of the leading engineering programs in the United States, ranking first in undergraduate enrollment and ninth in graduate enrollment. Faculty endowments encourage and reward faculty members who embody the passion for, and commitment to the education of engineering students. They bring years of rich experiences from the field and add tremendous value to the College of Engineering. If you are interested in supporting our students and faculty or would like more information on how you can give, please contact John Bernheim, senior director of development.