Leader brings broad experiences to Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Categories: General News

Belk College alumnus Gene Johnson to serve in interim role

Gene Johnson ​​’73, a seasoned entrepreneur, community leader and dedicated University supporter, is providing interim leadership for the UNC Charlotte Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

“Organizations benefit from periodically assessing where they are and where they are headed, so they can make any necessary course adjustments,” Johnson said. “That’s my primary focus as I help the center fulfill its promise, particularly as the university moves to R1 status, the highest research designation. I have learned many lessons from founding, growing and leading companies of all sizes in highly competitive industries that I believe will be useful as we redefine the center’s vision.”

Johnson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting in the Belk College of Business, draws expertise and connections from a broad set of experiences. He brings his entrepreneurial acumen and long-standing support of Charlotte to the role. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Charlotte, achieved the rank of captain in the U.S. Army and started his business career as a certified public accountant with Haskins and Sells, a predecessor of Deloitte. 

His entrepreneurial spirit came further into play as president and sole shareholder of JC&A, Inc., an investment banking and brokerage firm serving communications industries. He co-founded the competitive telecommunications company FairPoint Communications and was its chief executive officer. During that time, he was named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Carolinas Region. He came out of retirement from FairPoint to join with partners to revive and operate for a decade a telecommunications company they re-named United Communications, with Johnson as chairman. In 2023-24, he served as interim CEO of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

At Charlotte, Johnson holds distinction as the first alumnus to serve as chair of Charlotte’s Board of Trustees. He has chaired the Foundation Board, the Football Capital Campaign and the Marching Band Fundraising Committee, and is a former member of the Investment Fund Board and the Belk College of Business Board of Advisors. He served three terms as president of the Athletic Foundation and was president of the Alumni Association. He chaired the largest capital campaign in Charlotte’s history, EXPONENTIAL: The Campaign for UNC Charlotte. He has been inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame; presented with the University’s highest alumni award, the Bonnie E. Cone Lifetime Achievement Award; and received an honorary doctoral degree in 2014. 

For service to Charlotte and the broader community, in 2016 he received The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest honor bestowed by the governor on a North Carolina citizen. Johnson is an elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and has served with a number of organizations, including Communities in Schools, Hospice and Palliative Care, Levine Museum of the New South, Teach for America, the Uptown Shelter and YMCA of Greater Charlotte.