Retro Mason: Johnson Center Dedication 1996

black and white photo of people sitting on folding chair outside of a brick building

When the concept of the George W. Johnson Center was first proposed—combining a library, computer labs, a bookstore, a bank, and dining facilities in one building—the idea was met with skepticism. The Washington Post glibly called it a “mall of knowledge” in an early review, but the JC, as it is affectionately referred to, quickly became the heart of the campus.

The JC is the brainchild of former George Mason University President George W. Johnson, for whom it is named. In the late 1980s, Johnson urged university administrators to combine two campus buildings that were in the planning stages: a library wing and a student union.

interior shot of johnson center atrium from 3rd floor
Johnson Center interior, 2012. Photo by Alexis Glenn/Creative Services

“[Johnson] was frustrated that all the buildings were the same size. He felt we needed a big building,” said Mason professor emeritus John O’Connor in a 2010 interview. “[Johnson] wanted a building that would be the center of campus both physically and metaphorically.”

O’Connor sat on two of the university planning committees for what was originally called the University Learning Center, and he directed the center for its first three years.

The concept was innovative for its time, and university administrators from around the world came to campus to tour Mason's newest facility.

The Johnson Center was dedicated on April 12, 1996, in a ceremony that also unveiled the George Mason statue. A pdf of the program is available here.

For an in-depth look at the planning for the JC, read “Evolving Epicenter” from Mason Spirit, Spring 2010.

Photo credit: University Libraries' Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Photograph Collection, 1950s-1999