LeRoy Johnson Scholarship
His journey to Northwest University began in 1967. One day while teaching school in Aitkin, Minnesota, he happened to see an advertisement for a small college in Washington State looking for a history teacher. He filled out the application, sent it in, and waited. Time passed and Dr. Johnson heard nothing. One day he woke up and told his wife (Marilyn) about an odd dream he’d had the night before. “I dreamt that the president of Northwest, D.V. Hurst, called me and wanted me to go for a job interview. When I came home from work that night, Marilyn told me that D.V. Hurst called. He wanted me on a plane by Friday. By that following Saturday I had signed the contract and was an employee of Northwest College.”
As you might imagine, Dr. Johnson has seen significant changes during his tenure at NU. “When I first started, girls couldn’t wear earrings or wear pants. Guys couldn’t have their hair on their collar or have beards. But what I tell people who bemoan these generational changes is this: Today’s students may not dress the way you did, but they love God just like you love God.”
Dr. Johnson has taught thousands of students who have attended his classes throughout the decades. But he’s learned something from them as well. “Students have kept me younger than my 73 years,” he says. “They keep me in touch with current culture. More importantly, they’ve taught me a lot about tolerance. To be more understanding. Our students come from so many different backgrounds. Everyone has a unique story. You can’t assume you know everything about their lives. You can’t cookie cutter them.”
In addition to the change he’s seen in students, there have been noticeable changes in the university. “Over the years, it’s grown academically to serve wider needs and interests. We are no longer a school that only trains ministers, as important as that is. We now offer over 60 academic programs and educate people to Carry the Call into all kinds of careers. When I first came here, the only major was in Bible or church ministry. Back then we lost great people who had to transfer out if they wanted to go into education, business, or nursing. Today they can all get a great education right here.”
When asked about his favorite memories, many come from his 16-year tenure as the assistant men’s basketball coach. In fact, many still affectionately refer to Dr. Johnson as “coach.” But his reflections quickly turn to people whose lives he has touched. “There was one young man who was living in his car. He came here and took several classes from me. I was able to get him an internship at the state legislature. Now he is a full time legislative assistant.” Dr. Johnson would likely not say this, but there is a very good chance that none of these blessings would have happened to students like this without the care and compassion of a certain history professor.
Today, Dr. Johnson teaches history two days a week and you’re very likely to find him in the Caf having lunch with two of his granddaughters. Both are students at NU. “All three of my sons also attended Northwest.” As proud as he is of them, he reserves special praise for his wife of 51 years. “Without Marilyn, none of this would have been possible for me. I mean, who gets to spend their life doing this? Doing what they love? I enjoy being semi-retired. But I really loved my time here at Northwest. I made so many wonderful friends. It’s been so gratifying. I don’t know what could have been a better way for Marilyn and me to spend our lives.”
LeRoy Johnson keenly understands that his life has been blessed. But those who’ve been fortunate enough to call him teacher, coach, colleague, and friend realize the special blessing that he has been to us.
A Personal Note from Dr. Johnson
Alumni and Colleagues,
As I reflect on the forty-five years Marilyn and I have spent as part of the Northwest family, my heart is full. We count so many alums among our dearest friends and follow their lives with pride and thankfulness. It was my privilege to have hundreds of you in my history and political science classes, especially since when I came every student had to take two history classes and I was the only history prof! What I affectionately call “the good old days.”
I am proud to wear the title “Faculty Emeritus” from such a great institution as Northwest University. I have seen such growth of the University, both in physical size and buildings and in the scope of the degrees and programs offered. I am aware that in some circles there may be a feeling that the school has changed too much, and I understand that. I am an alum from several different schools and those places have changed drastically as well. Change is a constant of life, and I think the changes at NU have been positive and have brought progress. But, to alumni, “change can be the enemy of memory;” however, in the case of NU I think that as alums you can be proud of your alma mater as it turns out people prepared to minister in a variety of occupations and methods in the 21st century.
To my colleagues, I say thank you for your contributions to my personal spiritual and intellectual growth. I can’t begin to imagine all the challenging discussions I have shared with you, formally and informally. I treasure those. We have shared many things on campus and in our homes as well. Present and past colleagues and alums are a source of gratitude for both Marilyn and me. A university is only as good as its faculty and only as Christian as its faculty, so my hope is that you will keep the light alive!
Faculty & Friends Express Their Gratitude
Historian, educator, coach, sportsman, friend, family-man—LeRoy Johnson excels as a phenomenal human being who faith-fuels his days in such a way that shows his courage, his integrity, and his service. His decades long resulting history of institutional service, plus a venerable list of students in his wake, prove his attention to the present plus his ongoing commitment to the well being and future of Northwest University.
—Julia H. Young (recently retired English professor)
I remember so well when we needed a history professor with credentials, as we were deeply involved in procuring regional accreditation. An ad was placed in the Evangel and LeRoy saw it. He made contact and there we were in negotiations. He flew out from Minnesota and we reached an agreement. Salaries were low and I was able to add assistant basketball coach to his assignment and added $200 to his contract. That swung the deal. He served for years in that position, along with teaching history in a most admirable way. He related beautifully to the students and also with his associates on faculty. I found a house for him and Marilyn to rent overlooking Lake Washington. The problem was it was mouse infested. Poor Marilyn had to cope with that. After a year I found a house for them to purchase near Washington High School. We, as a college, loaned them the down payment. (And there is more to that story that I will forego.) They live in that house to this day. LeRoy wrote a great record at NU and is to be highly commended. He will be remembered by his students as ‘one of the best.’ He was with me for almost all of the 25 years I served as President.
—D. V. Hurst (Former President of NU – hired LeRoy)
I had written a good two pages before reading through what I wrote and realized that everything I was saying kept coming down to this one thing...I simply love the man...my teacher (’72), my friend (always), my co-worker (from time to time), my golf partner (anytime), my example (from day one), my confidant (still)...see, there I go again. LeRoy, I simply love you for who you are and all you’ve meant to me. No blush. Just fact.
—John Vertefeuille (Former student)
At the end of last year there were pictures of LeRoy posted around campus with encouragement for everyone to consider all the places where he left his mark. I have one of those pictures posted above my office door so that I can see it often, be reminded of the incredible privilege and responsibility it is to be a faculty member at this institution, and attempt to follow the example of my friend who truly did it right!
—Kristi Brodin (Current faculty and Marshall)
Dr. LeRoy Johnson is one of the finest examples of a gentleman and a scholar that I have ever met over the course of my academic career. It is always a testimony to his impact on the lives of NU students that whenever our alumni return to campus, they invariably mention the impact of Professor Johnson on their lives, not just their education. As academics, we are not only educators but councilors, mentors, and friends to our students. LeRoy epitomizes this in every way. NU was blessed by his service and I have been blessed by his friendship.
—Dr. Kevin Cooney, Professor of Business and Political Science
LeRoy Johnson has been and continues to be one of the most loyal and supportive fans of Eagle athletics in all sports. He attends as many athletic events as possible and it does not go unnoticed. Our athletes appreciate Dr. Johnson taking time to show his support for them. It means a great deal to them to see faculty and staff at their games.
—Al Kawashima - Sports Information Director