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Maritime innovator and benefactor of Tulane Maritime Law program has died

April 07, 2023 12:30 PM



Maritime entrepreneur, Tulane Board member and a founder of the Tulane Maritime Law Center, Erik Johnsen died earlier this week at the age of 97.

Johnsen (B’48) founded the Central Gulf Steamship Corp. (later renamed International Shipholding Corp.) with his father and brother in 1947, and throughout his life was a maritime innovator and generous benefactor to causes in the New Orleans community, including Tulane University.

A stalwart supporter and one of the founders of the Tulane Maritime Law Center, Johnsen, who received a bachelor’s in business administration from Tulane, was dedicated to his alma mater. In the 1980s, he was among a handful of alumni and friends of the university who put up the funding to create a program in maritime law, which is now ranked as the best in the world. Johnsen later generously funded the law school’s Neils Johnsen Chair in Maritime Law, which he named for his late father and is now held by iconic law Professor Robert Force.

Johnsen served over the years as a member of Tulane’s Board of Administrators and the Tulane Medical School Board of Governors. His son, R. Chris Johnsen, graduated Tulane Law School in 1985.

“We have lost a giant in the Gulf Coast’s maritime industry and a giant supporter of Tulane’s leadership in maritime law,” said law Dean David Meyer.  “His legacy will live on through the lives and careers of our Tulane maritime lawyers now and for generations to come.”

For more on his extraordinary life as a professional and civic leader in New Orleans, click here.