Friends, colleagues mourn late Medill broadcast manager

Jeanne Kuang, Campus Editor

Rich Johnson
Rich Johnson

Longtime Northwestern staff member Rich Johnson died earlier this month. He was 61.

Johnson, the broadcast production manager at the Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications, died from an illness on Sept. 2. He had worked at Medill since 1998, said Medill Prof. Roger Boye. 

“Rich made an enormous contribution to the education of nearly a generation of Medill broadcast students,” Boye wrote in an email to The Daily. “He was very student-focused, widely admired for his can-do attitude as well as for his technical skills.”

Johnson had previously worked as an audio visual technician at NU in the 1980s and early 1990s. He was an associate master of Communications Residential College for four years, Boye said. 

As broadcast production manager at Medill, Johnson supervised the studio used by student-run newscast Northwestern News Network.

“It was really great having him as a mentor to learn the technical aspects of broadcast news,” said NNN News Director Catherine Reid. “He was so sweet, he was always so willing to help. He always had something really interesting to say.”

Reid, a Medill senior, said Johnson was always excited to see people in the studio and that he was “really genuine in everything that he did.”

Ivan Meyers (Communication ’01), who worked with Johnson at NU, said Johnson was a “very quirky, very giving, very creatively energetic person.”

In addition to film, Johnson was also well-versed in other forms of arts, Meyers said. He was a founding member of the Rediscovering Wright Project, a research project dedicated to finding houses designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

“He was, aside from being a mentor to many Medill students, a brilliant film scholar and an architectural historian,” longtime friend Josh Grossberg (Communication ’96) said. 

As associate master, Johnson hosted classic film screenings in CRC when Grossberg was a student living in the residential college. 

Grossberg called Johnson “effervescent, energetic” and said the two of them have since collaborated on many film projects. Johnson was working on a screenplay at the time of his death, Grossberg said.

“He was genuinely the kindest, warmest and most brilliant person I’ve ever met,” Grossberg said.

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