In Memoriam: Tom Johnson

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By Crystal Carry

Tom Johnson (RCC Public Affairs)

By Crystal Carry

Instructor Tom Johnson was known as being a compassionate, strong willed man who loved Riverside City College.

“One of the reasons he moved to California is he heard community colleges were free and he thought that was the greatest thing,” said daughter Kjersti Berry who also works at the college. “He never wanted to move on to a university. He knew how important community college was to students.”

Johnson was proud to be a part of RCC for over 47 years. He passed away Dec. 20, at the age of 73.

Johnson started at RCC as an English instructor teaching English Composition, Literature and World Religions.

He served as the English Department chair followed by the dean of Humanities and Social Sciences and then as dean of the Communications Division. Before retiring he was the vice president for Academic Affairs.

Even after retirement Johnson could not stay away. He remained a part time consultant working as a special advisor to the chancellor and Administrative Liaison.

Johnson stayed involved with every activity he could go to.

“He loved this college,” said Vice President of Student Services Linda Lacy. “He and his wife Sally would be at football games, basketball games and all the plays.”

A classroom was dedicated in his honor in 2002 for his long-term service to the college.

“When they told him he could pick any room in the Quad he thought and thought about it. He taught in almost every room so he didn’t know which one to pick,” Berry said. “One day he was in the middle of a lecture in Room 103 and a student was starring at him weird. He asked the student if something was wrong and the student whispered ‘there’s a ladybug in your beard’ and that is the reason he chose Room 103. It wasn’t because he gave his greatest lecture there but because of something personal and funny. That is what my dad was about.”

The passion that Johnson bestowed upon the college also carried over to other interests.

“He loved to travel especially when he would drive. He would drive all night because he was so excited to get there,” Berry said.

Johnson loved to read all kinds of literature from new novels to the classics.

“Wherever he would go, he picked up a paper and read about what was going on and talked about it,” Berry said.

Johnson took interest in everything that was going on around him.

“I could see him right now looking at the construction, studying it and worrying about what they were going to do to the Quad,” Berry said. “He loved this college.”

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