By Nicole Capozziello
Published February 14, 2022
Ever since his years as an undergraduate student, Dexter Johnson (PhD ’95, MS ’89 mechanical, BS ’87 aerospace) has been dedicated to supporting others, everywhere that he goes.
For this work, on top of his numerous contributions to the aerospace field, Johnson was named the Engineer of the Year by the University at Buffalo Engineering and Applied Sciences Alumni Association (UBEAA).
Each year, the award recognizes a school alumnus or closely affiliated person with distinguishing activities in alumni, community, business and professional affairs.
Johnson is a Technical Fellow for Loads and Dynamics at NASA, where he celebrated his 30th anniversary in 2020. In addition to his role at NASA, he is also a minister, entrepreneur and frequent motivational speaker. As “Dr Dex,” he speaks on a range of topics involving STEM, faith and inspiration, personal excellence, building healthy relationships and career success.
"We are proud of what Dr. Johnson has accomplished through his service to the UB community, the nation, and the profession,” says UBEAA President Jordan Walbesser. “Dr. Johnson exemplifies the ideals of engineering - not just technical excellence, but servant-leadership and a passion for improving the lives of others. As such, the UBEAA is proud to give him our highest award - Engineer of the Year."
Over the years, Johnson has remained dedicated to his alma mater, serving on the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council from 2009-2015, and currently on the UB Alumni Association Board of Directors and the President’s Advisory Council on Race. His numerous past awards include the NASA Honor Award - Equal Employment Opportunity Medal, the Diversity and Inclusion Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Celestial Torch Award–Aerospace Pioneer of the Year from National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Aerospace Systems Conference.
“I am honored to be selected as the UB Engineer of the Year. Engineering excellence and technology advancement has been a major focus of my career and a primary factor in my professional success,” says Johnson. “UB provided me the foundation for engineering success, and I want to see the next great engineering alumnus represent this fine University as an ambassador to the world. I want them to be a trailblazer in uncharted territory helping solve the world’s most challenging engineering problems!”
A Buffalo native, Johnson’s career in engineering got its start when he participated in the precursor to the program now known as the Buffalo-area Engineering Awareness Program (BEAM) during his high school years at City Honors. In 1995, he became the first BEAM student to graduate with an engineering PhD from UB.
During his time at UB, he was one of the founding members of the campus chapter of NSBE, which he continues to be an active member of today. In his nearly 40 years of active participation with NSBE, he has been involved in membership, student leadership, mentorship, and corporate recruitment.
Of current engineering students and engineering professionals, Johnson asks, “Are you outstanding . . . or just standing out? All around us, we see examples of people, who because of their talents, abilities, looks, and celebrity status, stand out from the rest of the crowd. In our world of heightened social media engagement, many people seek to stand out, which can be easy and fleeting. However, it's better to be outstanding, though more challenging, in order to have a lasting positive world impact!"