Meet the Board: Colleen Johnson

With a heart for service and a passion for learning, Colleen Johnson has dedicated her life to making a difference, both in academia and in her community.

Colleen spent much of her childhood in southern California where she was born, though she also spent time in other states across the U.S. She married her husband, Jeff, in 1970 and then began pursuing the topic that would become the focus of her career.

It started with an economics class she took at the University of Minnesota, Morris, where her husband taught philosophy. This sparked her interest, as she found the topic both interesting and challenging. When they moved to La Grande for her husband’s career in 1982, she decided to pursue a Ph.D. in economics at Washington State University.

From there, Colleen went on to serve as an economics professor at Eastern Oregon University where she taught from 1986 – 2016. Throughout her tenure, Colleen authored numerous articles and delivered professional presentations on a wide range of topics, including minimum wage legislation, healthcare economics, poverty, the death penalty, and the effects of federal deficits on interest rates. She also developed course work in public policy and administration.

Along with her teaching career, Colleen was committed to serving her community through political involvement. Most notably, she dedicated nearly 20 years to the La Grande City Council, where she served as both a councilor and mayor. In addition, she also served on a number of Boards, including the Oregon Mayors’ Association, the League of Oregon Cities, and the Environmental Quality Commission for the City of Portland.

In 2022, Colleen embarked on her next chapter of service when she joined the OPRI Board of Directors. She says the strength of the organization is its dedication to improving the lives of Oregon’s PERS members. She notes that through the advocacy work, an enormous number of bills come through the legislative process that are monitored, and then a detailed analysis of those that affect PERS members is provided.

“Working with the OPRI Board members and supportive staff has allowed me to better understand and appreciate the myriad retirement issues that face PERS members,” she says. “I have found it very rewarding.”

Colleen savors the freedom and flexibility that retirement affords and continues to lead a full life. Now living in Portland, she enjoys leisurely walks with her beloved golden retriever, Harry, as well as indulging in her hobbies of reading, golfing, gardening and traveling.

Colleen Johnson
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