Calvin Johnson officially assumed command of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff as his alma mater's interim chancellor at the start of business on Tuesday, and one of his first acts was to subject himself to a roast-and-toast.

Calvin Johnson officially assumed command of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff as his alma mater’s interim chancellor at the start of business on Tuesday, and one of his first acts was to subject himself to a roast-and-toast.

Actually, the event in the Hathaway-Howard Fine Arts Center was a convocation, but the popular Johnson announced he had decided to abandon his prepared remarks to instead take a largely informal approach to the formal occasion.

Johnson’s style was well received by an appreciative, overflow audience that gave him two standing ovations, and meshed equally well with a lighthearted slate of dignitaries that shared in the program by respectfully flavoring their observations with good-natured jokes and humorous stories aimed at their amused target.

After University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt introduced Johnson, a former state legislator, as “the right person at the right time to lead UAPB in this transition period,” Johnson said he wanted to use the occasion in part to recognize his “friends and family” and note their influences on his life.

“I’ve come a long way,” said Johnson. “It’s a long way from Jerome to the chancellorship at UAPB.”

Jerome — Johnson’s Drew County birthplace — had a population of 39 in the 2010 census.

Johnson said he’s prepared to do his “best” in his new role, and if that’s not enough to “get the job done,” then “I’m prepared to do what is required.” He said he wants UAPB to “be aggressive with new ideas and opportunities” under his leadership.

“I can’t imagine too much that we can’t get done,” he said.

Johnson, Bobbitt and others praised Lawence A. Davis Jr., who had been UAPB’s chancellor for more than 20 years before retiring effective May 25. Davis didn’t participate in Johnson’s convocation.

Commenting as respondents to Johnson’s remarks were UAPB Administrative Coordinator for Student Affairs Elbert Bennett, Arkansas Department of Higher Education Interim Director Shane Broadway, Pine Bluff Alderman Bill Brumett, Greater Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Chris Hart, and UAPB Student Government Association President Obumneme Nwanko.

Broadway kidded that he had recommended Johnson for the chancellorship in an effort to help Johnson find an activity to occupy his time besides fishing and texting photographs of his catches. Johnson laughed and nodded.

Joining Bobbitt as other program participants were UA System Board Chairman Mike Akin, UAPB Faculty/Staff Senate President Dr. Michael Bates, UAPB Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Mary E. Benjamin, UAPB/AM&N National Alumni Association President Calvin Booker, UAPB senior Dennis Henry, and state Rep. Tracy Steele.

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