An Independent School • Grades 5-12

Paul Johnson ’84: DEI in education

by Aaron Z. ’23

July 2021

Paul Johnson ’84, the new director of diversity at the Seattle Waldorf School, is focusing on bringing greater diversity, equity, and inclusion to the school community. First a diversity manager at Starbucks, then Microsoft, Paul went into DEI work because of his upbringing in Beacon Hill. “I grew up in a community where [diversity] was sort of second nature; my ZIP code 98144 and the neighboring 98118 are two of the most diverse ZIP codes in the country.”  

Coming to the Seattle Waldorf School, Paul recalled his experience at institutions such as Lakeside. He didn’t encounter much diversity in his time. He notes that transitioning to education was “an opportunity to try to improve” on the private school experience for Waldorf students. He wants to help the school community better understand that diversity, equity, and inclusion is not “asking [people of color] to come in and leave who they are at home,” as he had experienced at schools and corporations; it is an idea that “we want to contribute and bring what we have to the table and have others learn from us, as well.”

For Paul, DEI work is about improving experiences for people, work that spans generations. From ’68 classmates T.J. Vassar Jr. and Floyd Gossett Jr. to Paul and on, “it’s about starting and creating a legacy where somebody else can carry that torch.”