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August 31, 2017

Obituary: Delores “Dee” Johnson

Delores “Dee” Johnson, who is believed to be Pitt’s longest-serving female staff member when she retired in 2005, died July 23, 2017. She was 76.

She began her Pitt career in 1958 as a microscope technician in the cyclotron laboratory within the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciencesphysics department. But she spent the majority of her time, beginning in 1971, at the University as a communications support services specialist with Pitt’s Office of News and Publications (now University Communications), where she helped to produce Pitt Magazine, Pitt Med and other University publications.

“She was always there” for fellow Pitt employees, recalls her colleague Bill Young, formerly executive director of marketing in Johnson’s former department. “If you needed background on something that happened before you arrived, she was the person to go to. She had the institutional knowledge. She was a hardworking person – she did her job and did it well.”

“I never thought I’d be here at Pitt for so many years, to tell you the truth, but I’ve enjoyed my work and I’ve learned a lot,” Johnson told Pitt news services upon retirement after 47 years at Pitt. In 2000, she was honored with the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence for Staff Employees – Pitt’s highest staff recognition.

Johnson was known as a talented vocalist. She sang in many musical genres with a variety of acts throughout the years, including performances at Pitt holiday parties.

Michelle Denson, administrative specialist in Johnson’s department, was also her women’s choir director at the Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church in East Liberty. “She was like a mom – she had that maternal instinct” in dealing with fellow choir members, Denson said. “She was very committed to her choir and her church.”

Born Aug. 9, 1940, Johnson is survived by her siblings Bashir Ansari, Alfreda Praither, Shirley Taylor, and Lillian (Stanley) Robinson.

Filed under: Feature,Volume 50 Issue 1

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