From left: Richard Arum, inaugural Johnstone lecturer; Stephen Dunnett, retired vice provost for international education; Gail Johnstone; D. Bruce Johnstone; Suzanne Rosenblith, dean of GSE; and President Satish K. Tripathi. (Doug Levere/UB Photo)

The Gift of Giving


As an accomplished higher education scholar and practitioner, D. Bruce Johnstone recognizes the critical importance of giving students opportunities to explore worldwide educational perspectives, policies and practices through a comparative lens. 

After serving as vice president for administration at the University of Pennsylvania, president of the State University College at Buffalo and chancellor of the State University of New York, issues of comparative education have been at the forefront of Johnstone’s thinking for decades.

His research and expertise in international comparative higher education, finance, governance and policy formation also brought him to GSE as a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor, where he taught higher education and comparative education courses in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy. 

Even after he retired, his time at UB solidified his desire to continue broadening students’ educational experiences through thought-provoking lectures and conversations about international educational systems and norms.

“I firmly believe that all graduate students in education—whether in social foundations, curriculum and instruction, or administration—benefit greatly from serious exposure to educational practices and the training of educators and educational researchers around the world,” he said.

He and his wife, Gail E. Johnstone, established the Johnstone Distinguished Lecture Series in Comparative Education Policy to facilitate continued critical thinking about educational policies and systems. 

The Johnstones knew this lecture series would be especially valuable for GSE students. “The University at Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education plays a special role in the provision of advanced training of teachers, school and college administrators, and in research that expands our understanding of how teachers, professors and administrators achieve this mission in states and localities that are too often beset with intolerance, inequality and insufficient resources,” he said.

The inaugural lecture, held in UB’s Center for the Arts on Sept. 13, 2022, was given by Richard Arum, professor of education at the University of California, Irvine.

His presentation, “Inequality in Higher Education: International Comparisons, Historical Trends and Student Educational Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” provided an overview of features and perspectives on access, cost and outcomes in higher education institutions in the U.S. and around the world. Informed by his research at the University of California, Irvine, Arum’s lecture discussed the impact that pandemic responses had on student inequality and educational experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the new behaviors and institutional practices that might provide opportunities to improve access and equity in the future. 

The first lecture has already proven to have the impact that the Johnstones envisioned. 

“UB is a research institution with a large international student population. If we want to place ourselves at the top, we need to know what others are doing and how we actually compare internationally and not just domestically,” said Travis Eisele, GSE doctoral student and academic advisor. “This lecture should make students question whether the U.S. model is actually the best, and if not, why isn’t it, and what can be done to change that?”

As GSE students prepare for careers as educators, researchers and policymakers, the Johnstone Lecture Series will continue to sharpen their perspectives on and knowledge of global education issues and policies.

And the entire UB community is grateful.

“We deeply appreciate the Johnstones’ support for this lecture, which not only creates a shared foundation of knowledge and experience, but also sparks innovative ideas and practices by presenting different perspectives to explore,” said UB President Satish K. Tripathi.