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Interview: The UT Art History Professor Who Got An Apology From Pres. Obama

President Barack Obama wrote a hand-written apology to a University of Texas art history professor this week.

Ann Johns, a senior lecturer at UT-Austin's Department of Art and Art History, complained via the White House website about the president's remarks in a speech at a Wisconsin factory last month. As CNN notes, stumping for education initiatives, President Obama said "You folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree."

Professor Johns tells KUT she wanted to make a point that income potential is not the only measure of a good education.

"The idea is still – even for engineers – is that we educate young people," Johns says. "And the best thing we can possibly do is to teach them to have these broader skills."

Johns graciously accepted Obama's apology. But she says she wanted to break stereotypes about art history.

"Certainly when I was an undergrad, that was much more the perception. The 'girls with pearls' is what we called them. It's a very different field now, and so I wanted him to understand, particularly at UT, we have scholars working in virtually every corner of the world," Johns says.

In his apology, the president said he apologized for what he called a "glib" off the cuff remark and said he was trying to encourage young people "to be open to technical training that can lead them to an honorable career."

Listen to Johns' conversation with KUT's Nathan Bernier in the player above. See a copy of the letter below, and images of the letter in the slideshow above.

President Obama's Note to UT Professor Ann Johns by The Texas Exes

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.