Johnson Named WT’s Hatton Professor of Rural Community Leadership

Chip Chandler Jan 24, 2024
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Johnson Named WT’s Hatton Professor of Rural Community Leadership

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124,


CANYON, Texas — A newly established professorship at West Texas A&M University further confirms the University’s commitment to rural education.

Dr. Brad Johnson, currently a clinical professor of education in the Terry B. Rogers College of Education and Social Sciences, is now the University’s new Lanna and Bob Hatton Professor of Rural Community Leadership.

“Dr. Johnson is exceptionally well-connected to rural community leaders of higher education across the state and region,” said Dr. Gary Bigham, dean of the Rogers College. “Dr. Johnson was a key player in the development of WT’s Rural Community Leaders Fellowship program and the associated RCL Summit that is held annually.

“The Hatton professorship will enable Dr. Johnson to advance our RCL Fellows program and rural educational leadership to the next level through teaching, research and outreach,” Bigham said.

The RCL Fellowship—a program of WT’s educational leadership doctoral program and co-created by Johnson and Dr. Shanna Peeples, WT’s Dr. John G. O’Brien Distinguished Chair in Education—is an opportunity to identify and recognize particularly talented and service-oriented rural leaders after their dedication and effectiveness has been proven in the field.

An appointment gives educators the opportunity to pass on their hard-won wisdom to the next generation of rural leaders through collaboration with doctoral students and other fellows.

“I am quite excited about the opportunities that exist as a result of this professorship,” Johnson said. “We have a generational change going on in rural America. Experienced and successful leaders are retiring every day and taking with them a lifetime of lived experience. I look forward to helping those leaders find ways to pass on that knowledge to the next generation. The resources that a professorship provide will do just that.”

The Hattons were inspired to make a $125,000 gift to establish this professorship—their third such gift to WT—after attending the inaugural RCL Summit in 2023.

“The Hattons firmly believe in the importance of educating the educators to make sure teachers at all levels are effective in accomplishing their work,” said Lesly Bosch Annen, assistant vice president for leadership gifts and development. “This gift further emphasizes the Hattons’ commitment to investing in programs and research to prepare educators and strengthen rural education in the Texas Panhandle.”

Johnson said their gift will have long-lasting effects.

“The Hattons are making a quiet yet profound investment in the quality of life enjoyed by thousands across our region who live in rural communities,” Johnson said. “I am honored to have the opportunity, thanks to them, to focus on helping preserve and improve educational, social and work lives in the Panhandle and beyond.”

The Amarillo couple established the Lanna and Bob Hatton Professor of Education, held by Dr. Russell Miller, in 2022, and they established the Lanna Hatton Professor of Learning Disabilities, held by Dr. Michelle Simmons, in 2020.

The Hattons also established the Bob and Lanna Education Endowment Fund via a significant planned gift to WT’s One West campaign in 2020.

Bob Hatton currently sits on the board of directors for the WTAMU Foundation, and Lanna Hatton is a member of the advisory board of WT’s College of Education and Social Sciences. Both serve on the One West campaign steering committee. The couple also has given generously to the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities.

WT’s fully online Ed.D. degree program was launched in 2018, preparing educational leaders for rural schools and those in higher education and educational organizations.

The 2024 RCL Summit is set for March 6 and 7.

Johnson has served at every level of administration during his 28 years in higher education. Prior to being named clinical professor of educational leadership in 2022, Johnson served for five years as WT’s vice president of strategic relations, personally visiting every community college district in Texas, as well as numerous colleges in Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico. He earned his bachelor of general studies and master of education in counseling from WT, a second master of education in higher educational leadership from Texas Tech University and his doctorate in educational leadership and administration from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

The new Hatton professorship and the Rural Community Leaders Fellowship each exemplify how WT excels as a Regional Research University, the primary goal of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic One West comprehensive fundraising campaign, which reached its initial $125 million goal 18 months after publicly launching in September 2021. The campaign’s new goal is to reach $175 million by 2025; currently, it has raised more than $150 million.

WT soon will boast nearly 90 endowed professorships, offering faculty additional funding for research, travel and more.

During the One West campaign, about 60 new professorships and chairs have been endowed throughout the University—an increase of more than 200 percent during the campaign.



About West Texas A&M University

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 59 undergraduate degree programs and more than 40 graduate degrees, including two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.