Aerial view of campus with Williamsport, the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Mountain as a backdrop

President of UPMC Susquehanna to keynote at Lycoming College commencement

President of UPMC Susquehanna to keynote at Lycoming College commencement

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Steven P. Johnson ’76, president of UPMC Susquehanna, will deliver the commencement address at Lycoming College’s 171st Commencement, May 11, at 2 p.m. on the College’s Fultz Quadrangle. In addition, the College will award Johnson an honorary Doctor of Laws during the ceremony.

Johnson’s career in healthcare began in 1980 when, following completion of Army Basic Training and Officer Candidate School, and a career at Lycoming County Department of Children and Youth Services, he became a nursing home administrator. Johnson’s passion for health care grew as he moved into the position of director of personnel for Williamsport Hospital. Since then, he has served in a number of areas and leadership positions, including materials management, operations, senior vice president, and executive vice president.

When regional health system UPMC Susquehanna (then Susquehanna Health) was formed in 1994, Johnson served as its chief operating officer, later moving into the position of president and chief executive officer in 2004, where he oversaw the additions of Soldiers + Sailors Memorial Hospital, Lock Haven Hospital, Sunbury Community Hospital, and Cole Memorial Hospital and led the effort to select a larger organizational partner culminating in the merger with UPMC in the fall of 2016. Headquartered in Williamsport, Pa., UPMC Susquehanna consists of six hospitals, numerous outpatient clinics, and four nursing homes, employs nearly 6,000 staff, and was last year selected as one of the Top 15 health systems in the United States by IBM Watson.

Maintaining strong ties to the community throughout his career, Johnson is currently the vice-chairman of the Little League Baseball International Board of Directors and locally serves on the boards of Pennsylvania College of Technology, the Williamsport Lycoming Economic and Community Development Corporation and the regional advisory board for M&T Bank. He previously served as chairman of the American Hospital Associations Regional Policy Board, the Hospital & Health System Association of Pennsylvania, the Williamsport Lycoming Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Lycoming. Johnson has also served in numerous other capacities on the boards of the American Hospital Association, the First United Methodist Church of Williamsport and Lycoming Colleges’ Board of Visitors.

“Steve Johnson’s record of leadership as chief executive officer of the UPMC Susquehanna system has been truly exceptional. He has collaborated with others over two decades to build what will soon be world-class health care in north central Pennsylvania,” said Kent C. Trachte, Ph.D., president of Lycoming College. “Without question, he is one of our most accomplished graduates.”

Johnson received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Lycoming College in 1976, a master’s degree in public administration from Marywood University in 1988, and is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives. He has been married to his wife Mary Ann (McDermott) for 40 years, has two adult children and four grandchildren and resides in Montoursville.

“Lycoming College is not only a strong pillar in our community, but also the pillar on which hundreds of thousands of alumni have built their careers and livelihood,” said Johnson. “As a commencement speaker, you hope to deliver a speech to inspire and enrich the outlook of the graduates, but Lycoming has already given these graduates everything they need to achieve great success. I am humbled and honored to celebrate our new alumni.”

Also receiving an honorary degree this year is influential community leader Charline Pulizzi, president of Labels by Pulizzi. Her generosity with the College and her service on its Institute for Management Studies Board of Visitors has positively impacted the campus and its students for decades. Beyond the College, Pulizzi has been an extraordinary business leader and philanthropist, having made a meaningful impact on many organizations and families in Williamsport throughout her life and career. 

Graduating senior Olivia Heckroth, a creative writing and corporate communications major from Oakdale, Pa., was chosen as class speaker and will address her fellow classmates, as well as faculty, staff, and families, at this year’s ceremony. A Lycoming Scholar, Heckroth has emerged as a leader of the Class of 2019, having participated in a number of enhanced experiences throughout her college career, including the Gettysburg Leadership Capstone Experience, study abroad in the Dominican Republic, and Habitat for Humanity. She worked on campus as a tour guide and admissions assistant, student philanthropic ambassador for alumni relations, study skills tutor in the Academic Resource Center, and was a marketing office intern. In addition, Heckroth served as editor-in-chief and poetry editor for the College’s literary magazine, The Tributary, as well as writer for The Lycourier student newspaper. Heckroth is a published poet with multiple works accepted by The Allegheny Review.