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Ernest A. Johnson was born in Ouray, Colorado in 1895. He received a BA at Colorado college and a Master's degree at the University of Denver in 1924. He moved to Illinois to participate in graduate work at Northwestern University and University of Chicago receiving his doctor's degree from Northwestern in 1933.
He was a respected faculty member of Lake Forest College, head of the economies and business adminstration department. Ultimately, he became the 9th elected President after the retirment of Dr. Herbert McComb in 1942. He served as President at Lake Forest until his death in 1959 at the age of 64.
He was also an author of several studies and a husband to his wife Edith. As an honored member of the College, his choices to provide and run an evening school, summer sessions, and an army specialized training program alongside the average academic programs within the college were some of the greatest achievements of his adminstration at Lake Forest.