Dr. Carol Johnson-Dean (1948-)

Dr. Carol Johnson-Dean, ca. 2016
Courtesy Lemoyne-Owen College

Carol Johnson-Dean was the first black woman superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools. She held that post from 1997 to 2003. Johnson-Dean was born 1948 to Mrs. Willie Rawls and Buddy Rawls. She grew up in Brownsville, Haywood County, Tennessee about 50 miles northeast of Memphis.

Dr. Johnson is a graduate of an HBCU, Fisk University in Nashville, where she holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She holds a master’s degree and doctorate in curriculum and instruction and a doctorate in educational policy and administration from the University of Minnesota.

Johnson has worked as a teacher, principal, and a school system superintendent in Memphis, Boston, and Minneapolis.  She had previously served as superintendent of Memphis City Schools from 2003 to 2007 and Boston Public Schools from 2007 to 2013.

The Board of Trustees of LeMoyne-Owen College, the only four-year historically black college in Memphis, selected Dr. Carol Johnson-Dean to serve as Interim President, effective Aug. 26, 2019. During Her 18-month tenure, there, besides being the recipient of a $40-million-dollar beneficiary endowment, the largest in the colleges 158-year history, she coached the transition to remote infrastructure to support students and faculty during the COVID-19 pandemic. The college received over $6 million dollars from federal, state, city and county government and community partners to acquire technology, internet access and transform the infrastructure to support students and faculty in the transition.

During her tenure, an on-campus Health and Wellness Clinic was established in partnership with Methodist-LeBonheur Healthcare. Prior to her role as Interim President, she served on the LeMoyne-Owen College Board of Trustees and as the Executive Director of New Leaders, South Region, a national organization providing leadership development for aspiring principals and teacher leaders. She has provided oversight to New Leaders programs in Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida and Minnesota. In 2015, she  also served as Executive Director for the Large District Support Program for the Tennessee Department of Education.

Situated in the poorest zip code in Memphis, LeMoyne-Owen College was originally established in 1862 as an elementary school for freedmen and runaway slaves after the occupation of Memphis by Union forces during the Civil War. Today the historically Black college enrolls just under 900 students. African Americans make up 98 percent of the student body and women are nearly 70 percent of all enrollments.

On January 2021, Dr. Carol Johnson Dean stepped down as Interim President of LeMoyne-Owen College and was replaced by Vernell Bennett-Fairs. Dr. Johnson-Dean is married to Dr. Willie Dean, a retired YMCA Executive. Together, they have six adult children.