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Nonagenarian sets the bar high


Whenever and wherever UNF alumni gather, there’s a good chance Dorothy Johnson will be among the participants.


Johnson has been involved in the UNF Alumni Association for more than 30 years and active in the Osprey Club, the booster club for Athletics, for more than 25 years. Those two organizations alone account for hundreds of events and activities spanning decades of her service to UNF and that doesn’t include her work with numerous community organizations.


Pierre Allaire, vice president of Institutional Advancement, said Johnson has been an inspiration to the Alumni Association and the entire University. “Dorothy is a wonderful person who has had a profound impact on UNF as a volunteer for several decades. Her motives are always to help make the University the best. She’s special.” 


No one has seen that side of Johnson more frequently than Faith Hall, director of Alumni Services. “Dorothy has always been the consummate alumni volunteer,” Hall said. “From attending alumni events and meetings to cheering on our student athletes or establishing scholarships, Dorothy continues to give back to UNF in every possible way and sets the bar high for all others.”


Johnson, 90, jokes frequently that she is trying to slow down, but “they won’t let me.”


Johnson has been so active in so many aspects of the Alumni Association the organization decided to name a service award in her honor. The first Dorothy G. Johnson Medallion was bestowed to its namesake in 2006.


Along with giving her time, she has also given her treasure. She has made gifts to UNF every year since 1976. She joined loved ones to establish the Dorothy G. Johnson Family and Friends Endowed Scholarship that provides assistance to students in the College of Education and Human Services. The first recipient of the scholarship was a U.S. Marine majoring in education.


That was fitting because Johnson was an Army officer’s wife.  Johnson was a freshman at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Ga., when she met Georgia Tech student Dan Johnson. They married young, and Johnson dropped out of college to raise seven children as the wife of an Army artillery officer. They lived in Japan and England while he was stationed overseas.


When Johnson’s husband, then a retired colonel, suffered a stroke, he encouraged her to finish her degree in order to take care of the family. She enrolled at UNF using her husband’s GI benefits and earned her bachelor’s degree in English and literature at 54. Dan Johnson died a month after she received her degree and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. She found work teaching English as a second language at what a community college. Despite balancing children and a job, she continued her studies at UNF and eight years later obtained her master’s in what was then called allied health science.


The UNF tradition continues in the Johnson family. Two of her daughters graduated from UNF with master’s degrees.


In many ways, major and minor, Johnson has made a lasting impact on UNF and the Alumni Association. Perhaps the best summary of that impact came in 2006 when announcing the award in her honor. It was noted that Johnson has “made a difference in the community by being a quiet, unassuming hero. She has enriched people’s lives by providing opportunities and encouraging excellence.”