Nationally known communications expert Kelly Johnston, formerly of Chickasha, was inducted Oct. 25, 2003 to the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma Alumni Hall of Fame. His alma mater saluted Johnston's 25 years of achievement as a senior executive, consultant and communicator in politics and media.
Before he was named vice president for government affairs at the Campbell Soup Company last year, he served as 28th Secretary to the U.S. Senate in Washington.
Johnston praises his family and home state as big contributors to his success.
"To the extent that others consider me successful, I owe it the Oklahoma values of humility, hard work and service to others instilled by my parents and reinforced at USAO," Johnston said Wednesday. "Even the success that I have enjoyed outside of Oklahoma should be attributed to other Oklahomans in places like Washington, D.C., especially U.S. Senator Don Nickles."
USAO President John Feaver praised Johnston as a worthy inductee to the Hall of Fame.
"Kelly Johnston exemplifies the best that USAO aims to produce: enthusiastic, ambitious, inquisitive and unselfish citizens," Feaver said. "Kelly broadened his perspective at USAO, and then employed his many gifts in serving society, his profession, his family and his personal goals. We celebrate his success, and we salute his dedication to high ideals. He has been an ambassador for USAO in significant circles of influence."
Johnston called the honor a welcome surprise.
"This is an honor I never expected, but am truly humbled to receive," he said. "The wonderful experiences that I enjoyed at USAO -- from helping restart student government to editing the Trend student newspaper -- were ones I probably would never have done anywhere else. And it was those experiences in large part that emboldened me after I graduated. USAO and its faculty and especially (former president) Dr. Roy Troutt will always be front and center in my own personal Hall of Fame."
Johnston isn't quite sure which Oklahoma town to claim first, he said. "I consider my hometown to be Washington, Okla., although I was born in Edmond and grew up in Tulsa, El Reno, Guymon, Kingfisher, Stillwater, Oklahoma City and Washington, where I graduated from high school. I also lived in Chickasha, Bartlesville and Henryetta before heading to D.C."
After he left Oklahoma, Johnston advanced rapidly to national prominence, resulting in being sworn in as the 28th Secretary of the U.S. Senate on June 8, 1995. Nominated by Majority Leader Robert Dole for the job, Johnston oversaw the day-to-day administration of legislation with a budget of $15 million in 1996 as he served as the Senate's chief administrative, legislative, and financial officer.
He is now the vice president for government affairs for Campbell Soup Company, which he joined in September 2002. He coordinates the company's activities and relationships with local, state, federal, and international government legislation and regulatory agencies, as well as the company's participation in trade associations.
Prior to joining Campbell, Johnston served as executive vice president for government affairs and communications at the National Food Processors Association from 1996 until 2002. He came to the Senate position from the Senate Republican Party Committee, the agenda-setting arm of the Senate Republican leadership, where he served as executive director from 1992-95.
He served as deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Transportation in the first Bush Administration. He was a Deputy Political Director for both the National Republican Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committees, the official campaign organizations for Republicans in the Senate and House, respectively. Johnston also served as director of communications at the National Restaurant Association and was named one of the "Top Rising Stars" by a political magazine.
At USAO, Johnston earned a bachelor's degree in communication in 1976, completing his coursework in two and a half years. Originally attending USAO on a baseball scholarship, Johnston worked his way through school and with the aid of scholarships. After his graduation from USAO, Johnston became editor of a newspaper in Henryetta and also worked as a state capitol reporter.
He attended graduate school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Johnston and his wife, the former Adrienne Cordova, married in 1984. They have two sons, Gavin and Garrett.