W. Lloyd Johns, president of the California State University at Sacramento, was officially named president of Gallaudet College yesterday.

He will assume his new duties in October, college officials said.

When Johns, 52, was introduced as the new president in a ceremony yesterday, students and faculty members greeted the announcement with a standing ovation while his predecessor, Edward C. Merrill, beamed in the background.

Merrill announced his retirement last week, but Johns' selection was a surprise to some in the audience.

"I know a lot of the people here," Johns had said earlier in the campus' crowded auditorium.

"I met many of them when I was a teacher and staff member of the California State University's leadership training program for the deaf."

Some of his students have gone on to teach at Gallaudet and more than 50 other specialized residential schools in the country.

Students and teachers at Gallaudet were enthusiastic about both Johns' experience in the field and his warm personal style.

"I just met him recently, and he really seems to have the vision for us, the sensitivity for us that Dr. Merrill has," said Astrid Goodstein, an English teacher at Gallaudet who is deaf and whose signed remarks were interpreted.

Johns, apologizing for his rusty sign language, explained that he left the area of education for the deaf in l975. He was subsequently named vice president for administration and education services at California State University at Sonoma. He became president of California State University in 1978.

His appointment ended an eight-month search to replace Merrill, whose courtly style, fluent signing and empathy with the deaf earned him a warm farewell tribute two days ago.

"Gallaudet's fifth president will shape the future and be shaped by this college," Merrill told yesterday's audience. "Be sure to pick on him the way you picked on me."

Johns is taking over a 118-year-old college, the world's only liberal arts college for the deaf, and an education center that includes both an elementary school and a one-year preparatory center for future college students. He will oversee the preparatory school's expansion into a new campus at the former Marjorie Webster Junior College at 17th Street and Kalmia Road NW.

But Johns is more concerned with Gallaudet's long-term goals. "The future strength of this college lies in continuing and expanding its research and teaching work not only nationally but internationally through the use of new communications technology," Johns told the students. One of his priorities for the school, he later said, is to provide computer training courses, a subject much on the mind of students and staff.

All over the campus yesterday, the talk was of Johns' appointment and the future of the college. "I'm very relieved!" a deaf student wrote to a reporter. "It was the best judgment."