Johnson Staples, Julie
Julie Johnson Staples, a Des Moines, Iowa native, moved to Lawrence, Kansas to attend KU. While attending KU’s William Allen White School of Journalism, Johnson Staples made her first bit of history: she was the first African American editor of the University Daily Kansan.
Johnson Staples began her career at the Orlando Sentinel, later becoming the White House reporter for the Baltimore Sun and later The New York Times. She left the Times to become the Supreme Court correspondent for TIME magazine and later reported for ABC News as the correspondent for the U.S. Justice Department. Julie earned her juris doctor degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1994, augmenting her reputation as a commentator on politics and law. In 1998, she became a senior managing director for the public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton, and in the early 2000s she joined the private equity firm of Warburg Pincus as vice president. She later became a partner in the firm—the first African American to do so.
After returning again to school to earn two master’s of divinity degrees – one in Biblical Studies from Union Theological Seminary (2011), and one a year later in theology from Harvard Divinity School (2012), Johnson Staples was ordained as a Congregational minister at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, New York. She later became the interim minister for education at Riverside Church in New York City. In May of 2012, Rev. Johnson Staples was appointed to the board of the Congregational Library of the Congregational Christian Historical Society in Boston, Massachusetts. She is also former Chair of the Board of Directors of healthywomen.org, a national women's health organization.
Johnson Staples was a visiting professor in the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies at Rutgers University and a guest speaker and lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and the Ford Hall Forum in Boston. She has served on the KU William Allen White Foundation board of trustees for the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. The KU Black Alumni Network honored her in 2015 as an African-American Leader and Innovator.
Advocacy for marginalized individuals and communities and a desire to advance social justice is at the center of her work. She currently serves as Executive Director of Intersections International, a multi-cultural initiative of the Collegiate Churches of New York that leads people to unite across lines of difference in mutual pursuit of social justice, globally and locally. Their four interactive programs stand at the intersections of veterans and civilians, divided nations and peoples, artistic engagement and community values, and Christianity and LGBTQ equality. She frequently speaks out and publishes articles related to injustice.
In each of her careers, Johnson Staples has earned coveted positions that have not traditionally been open to women or African Americans, opening doors and making inroads. A nominator states, “in all respects, [she] has exhibited the standard of leadership we should honor…at the University of Kansas.”