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Meet the New Board Chair

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Judi Johansen J.D. ‘83, former president and CEO of PacifiCorp, is Lewis & Clark’s new chair of the Board of Trustees. Over the course of her wide-ranging career in utilities, Johansen has also served as administrator and CEO of the Bonneville Power Administration and as vice president of business development with Avista Energy. She has held numerous leadership roles in civic affairs.

You’re a successful businesswoman–and the College’s first female board chair. What impact has being female had on your career?

I’m honored, like my male colleagues, to be in leadership positions. I really, really don’t see my gender being an issue, and I don’t perceive that other people do. If I am, by coincidence, a role model for other women, then great. But there are a lot of good male role models out there too. That’s the way I look at it.

What does it take to be a successful leader?

First of all, there is no perfect recipe for leadership. Different leadership styles work in different circumstances at different times. I have a more collaborative, more communicative style.

To get into leadership positions–and there are different ways to get there–you need to prepare yourself so you can take advantage of opportunities that arise. If you don’t prepare yourself, then you have no one to blame but yourself, really.

You’ve always been involved in the energy sector. Why?

When I was in law school at Lewis & Clark, Congress passed a major piece of legislation called the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act. As a result, Bonneville Power Administration got into the energy market and needed to hire lawyers and law clerks. So we all reported over to Bonneville and got jobs!

The work was interesting–I liked it because it was really a combination of many of the disciplines I studied in school: environmental policy, political science, economics, Indian law. And the public service aspect was appealing–whether you’re a private or public company, electricity is a basic essential need.

What has been your biggest career challenge?

Without a doubt, the most difficult time in my entire career–and this will always be the case–was a fatality. One of our linemen was killed in an electrical contact accident. Even though I’ve dealt with many, many interesting, difficult, intellectually challenging issues over the years, it’s been the people issues that have kept me awake at night.

Are you generally bullish or bearish about our energy future?

I think the industry is moving through a period of rapid change right now. We are definitely, as a nation and as a globe, coming to grips with the impact that our conventional energy sources are having on the Earth. As a consequence, it’s an exciting period for new technology. So I feel very bullish about our energy future. Some new and not-so-new technologies are really starting to come forward. But the fact remains, I think, that this nation has to figure out a way to commercialize clean coal.

You’ve served on many different boards. What’s the most challenging part of board service?

In this day and age, corporate governance is really important–more so than it’s ever been. So directors have to be up to speed on the latest in terms of laws and regulations; we need to know enough about the business to form an independent view; and we have to stay out of micromanaging. If we do all that well, it takes a lot of work. It isn’t golf games, fancy dinners, and five-star hotels. It’s working lunches and grinding through the facts. 

What do you see as the College’s near- and long-term priorities?

My initial priority is to make sure the board members are all focused in the same direction. I’m keen on people understanding, very simply, where we’re headed.

And frankly, we need to bring more resources to the school–no doubt about it. We need to know where we’re going, what resources it’s going to take to get there, and how to develop a credible fund-raising plan.

Beyond that, my personal priority is to support the president, the faculty, the administration, and the students in fulfilling their potential. I’m a cheerleader for Lewis & Clark!

Will John Bates, the previous board chair, be a tough act to follow?

Oh, yeah! Are you kidding? (Laughs) No question. And he’s not going anywhere–he’ll still be a member of the board. He and I are in regular contact–he’s a very important person for me to consult with frequently.

John helped rebuild the board, give it some stability, and helped be a guiding, constant force through a lot of change. He’s done a lot, I think, to steady the institution and get it headed in the right direction. And he and Susan are tireless in terms of their contributions to all three schools. It’s almost immeasurable what he’s done. And he’s such a gentleman. (In a whisper) I think he ties his own bow ties!

What excites you about Lewis & Clark?

The people, the place, the potential–and the history. We’re preparing our students–law, graduate, and undergraduate–for their futures. That’s exciting to me. I come from a family of educators–my parents were teachers, and my grandfather was a college professor in Colorado, so education is in my blood.

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