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March 18th, 2022

Duke Johnson selected to be Clark Planetarium’s new director

Audra Sorensen - Email
110 South 400 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

SALT LAKE CITY — Clark Planetarium has selected Durand ‘Duke’ Johnson to lead the organization as its new executive director.

Johnson has more than 30 years of experience as a leader, educator and exhibits expert. He has worked and collaborated with planetariums and science centers throughout the country. Johnson was an adjunct astronomy professor for nearly 10 years, and he is an accomplished writer and award-winning photographer (specializing in astrophotography). He has worked for Clark Planetarium for 18 years.

“Duke’s resume speaks for itself,” says Robin B. Chalhoub, Salt Lake County Community Service Department’s interim director. “However, Duke’s accomplishments aren’t just on paper. He is an exceptional organizational leader and positive mentor. And he is a data-driven, proven project manager who is laser-focused on developing and funding a successful future for Clark Planetarium. We could not be more pleased with our decision to have him at the helm of the organization.”

Johnson received his Bachelor of Science degree in Education, with honors, from Valley City State University in North Dakota in 1991. Upon graduation, he became a full-time educator, teaching mathematics and physical science.

After a year of teaching, Johnson joined the museum-education field as an intern astronomer with Buehler Planetarium in Davie, Florida. Soon after, he was hired as the director of SciWorks Planetarium in Salem, North Carolina, where he worked for 10 years until relocating to Utah for a position with Clark Planetarium in 2003.

Since that time, Johnson worked in a number of capacities at Clark Planetarium. He says that in all these roles, his priorities have been championing STEM education and creating programs and exhibits that support Utah teachers and schools. And going forward, he says, he plans to expand those opportunities, especially among under-represented communities.

“As the director, I want to take the lead on implementing strategic initiatives that allow us to engage more of our community, especially those that have traditionally been marginalized,” Johnson said. “I want to increase the reach of our programs and ensure that underrepresented communities see themselves as a part of our programs and staff in a very meaningful way.”

While employed with Clark Planetarium, in 2008, Johnson earned his Master of Science degree in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota. He was promoted to associate director in 2017 and started his position as Clark Planetarium’s executive director on March 14, 2022.