From his modest beginnings in depression-era Winnipeg, F. Ross Johnson rose to become the chief executive of RJR Nabisco, and was internationally regarded as one of the most influential executives of the 20th century. As a businessman, he influenced the economic lives of people around the world; as a philanthropist, his impact was just as profound. His active leadership in civic and non-profit groups, such as the New York Multiple Sclerosis and National Multiple Sclerosis Societies, aided those in need.
Ross Johnson was also a great supporter of the University of Toronto. The F. Ross Johnson Distinguished Speaker Series at the Munk School of Global Affairs’ Centre for the Study of United States (CSUS) has brought many high-profile scholars to the University of Toronto over the years. As Professor Robert Vipond, CSUS Interim Director, said, “The F. Ross Johnson Distinguished Series has served as a vehicle for exploring critical questions that affect the U.S., most recently, a year-long series on inequality. As a Canadian who spent most of his adult life in the U.S., Ross Johnson understood that Canada has a lot riding on understanding the U.S. in a way that is both clear and nuanced. That’s where his philanthropy and the core mission of CSUS met and flourished.”
He was awarded the Order of Canada in 1986, as well as the Silver Jubilee Medal, Golden Jubilee Medal, and Confederation Medal. He also received the Silver Medal of Patriotism in the U.S., and the Versailles Award in France.
Ross Johnson passed away on December 29, 2016 at age 85. He will be forever remembered and missed by the CSUS and Munk School community.