Jeffrey Johnson (1969)

Worked in finance in New York City and in development economics; now working on a project on ethics and finance

In 1965, I graduated from Harvard with a senior thesis on Thomas Kuhn and the social sciences, and headed to Lesotho with the Peace Corps.Returning to the US in 1969, to enter a doctoral program in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, I landed in the middle of a passionate opposition to Vietnam War.  I was already radicalized by living for two years among farmers who lived in thatched roofed huts, so I knew where my loyalties lay.  When the war came to the beginning of its end with Nixon’s resignation, my comrades and I turned our attention to the feminist project; the women in our circle gave us no alternative.  I was a founding member of what was apparently the first men’s conscious-raising group of the era.  I ended up teaching gender, family, and sexuality courses at San Francisco State and UC San Diego.  My dissertation treated human evolution in a game theoretic framework. During the storm of feminism and the sexual revolution, I lost my first wife, Leslie Kilham '66, and found my new wife and life partner Ellen Bloch, an artist and botanist from Hollywood and UC Berkeley. Next came a post doctoral fellowship in bioethics at the Hastings Center. Seminars with moral philosophers like Alasdair MacIntyre, and bioethicists like Ronald Bayer stretched my mind. A growing dissatisfaction with both the intellectual direction and tenure prospects in sociology opened a door to a program for PhDs at NYU's business school, and  then a job writing the strategic plan for Chemical Bank's new Multinational Group. I banked major pharma companies, then moved to another planning job at American Express, for their Asian business. I found my groove for the next 19 years with Sanwa Bank of Osaka (now UFT), another bank seeking a guidance on breaking into business with the US Fortune 500. With my Japanese colleagues, I made Sanwa Bank a leader in arranging financing for major office buildings. Ellen and I found ourselves settled into NY lives, as she worked in the Herbarium at the New York Botanical Garden.  Finally we were ready, and our son Jonah was born.As the office market entered a down cycle, I founded the Global Finance Internship program at Sanwa.  For each of 9 years, we brought a half dozen early career professionals from the central banks and ministries of finance of the emerging and post-Soviet economies to New York to study banking and the capital markets, with placements throughout our operations, and my intensive accounting and financial analysis classes.  I was blessed by wonderful students from all over the world. Post 9/11, my attention turned to investigating the uses of the banking system by international criminals and terrorist organizations.  First for Sanwa, then for many other international banks, and for the Central Intelligence Agency, I worked to implement controls the US put in place to minimize these problems. I have been retired since 2008, and have made a hobby of orthopedic adventures, with surgery and long recoveries following a motorcycle accident, and then a paralysis-threatening disc herniation almost severing my cauda equina.  As a result, I learned what it is like to be in one’s 80’s with loss of mobility and vitality.  I did not like what I saw, and so have gone through two different successful rehabilitation regimes, leaving me not worse off than most of my classmates.

Other tidbits:  Although raised as a Southern Baptist, I converted to Judaism in 1997, after years of designating myself as Jewish-ish.Throughout my financial career, I have been puzzling over matters of ethics and finance.  My library and my study are marshaled to write in this area.  Time will tell whether I produce.

Dissertation Title: 
Evolutionary Genetics and the Symbolic Construction of Human Social Order: Neo-Darwinian Biology & Individualism Reassessed