Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Good Professor

With all the news lately about the nutty professors, we can't lose sight of the fact that there are some GOOD professors at WSU. This was a story in today's Seattle P-I:
WSU's P.A. voice doubles as mayor

PULLMAN -- Election or not, eventually the good citizens of this city likely would have bestowed Glenn Johnson with the title anyway.


Here he is, the old professor, sitting in his office at the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State, with all the energy and passion of the students he still loves to teach.

Still on his docket are two broadcasting classes a semester, which he teaches with the same intensity he arrived with when he first stepped onto campus in 1979.

Add to that, for the past 27 years, his duties as the public address announcer for WSU football and basketball games.

Now, top that with the numerous civic responsibilities Johnson, 62, has embraced, from serving on the board of the local chamber of commerce to a seat on the hospital board to serving as the public information officer for the Pullman fire and police departments.

And yes, since 2003 when he won with nearly 98 percent of the vote, he has also been the city's mayor.

"I've always been organized," Johnson said. "Time management skills have always been important ever since I was the manager of two radio stations back in Sacramento when I was starting out in broadcasting."

A Central California native, Johnson is now as synonymous with Pullman and WSU as the rolling wheat fields that surround it. He has been instrumental in improving town-gown relations, moving easily between both worlds, embracing both the community and the university he has grown to love.

"He's been marvelous for the entire community," said Fritz Hughes, a longtime friend who serves on the chamber of commerce with Johnson. "He has invited people to the university to become involved with the community and vice versa. He's about the most genuine, caring person you'll find."

When Johnson arrived in Pullman with his two young children and his wife, Kathy, he was just trying to survive.

"The first three years were really rough," Johnson said. "I didn't know if I was going to make it."

An intense, passionate teacher who preached accountability and respect for the trade, he quickly endeared himself to his students. Johnson is not one for excuses or false praise and he drew the best out of his pupils.

"I remember he threw me out of his class once," said Eric Johnson, an anchor and the sports director at KOMO/4. "He said in that voice of his that I had potential but that I was wasting it. He said maybe I should let someone else who wanted it more to have my spot in class."

Eric Johnson showed up at his professor's office three consecutive mornings asking for a spot in another section of the course. Finally, the prof relented and let the kid come back.

"He had a spot for me, he just wanted to see if I was passionate about it," Eric Johnson said. "That's the thing about Glenn. He cared so much that he wanted you to care as much. That's when I knew I really wanted to do this."

Glenn Johnson's fire for broadcasting and his genuine desire to see his students succeed is why he's still a part of many of their lives.

Take a look at the headshots of the anchors and reporters outside his office and you get a window into what he means to his students. Among them locally are Johnson, Mary Nam and Kathi Goertzen at KOMO and Mark Wright at KCPQ/13.

"I've always wanted to take a genuine interest in my students," Johnson said. "Even the ones who weren't going to make a career of broadcasting. You want them to know that they could succeed in whatever they choose to do if they really believed in what they were doing."

Eric Johnson still calls his old professor several times a year. That's the rule rather than the exception. Some send contracts for him to look over, solicit advice on all matters and drop by to see him when they can.

"He left a gigantic impression on all his students," said Rod Simons, the former KSTW/11 sports anchor now in Minneapolis. "All you have to do is talk to someone who knows him and they'll tell you how important he was to their careers and lives."

Many students who passed through WSU the past three decades knew Johnson only for his voice. That rich, booming timbre that floated over the stands at Martin Stadium on fall Saturdays and through Beasley Coliseum on winter nights.

Alumni young and old can recall his standards, from "That's another Cougar first down!" to "Here come the Cougs!"

Not bad for the former radio broadcaster whose previous experience doing P.A. was as a fill-in for the Triple-A Sacramento Solons.

"Best voice in college P.A.," said Rod Commons, the WSU sports information director and the man who hired Johnson. "That voice, for one. And he just had such a presence. He had just enough pizzazz without being the show."

Of course, calling Apple Cups always meant a bit more. Johnson said he loves this time of year more than the rest for obvious reasons. His favorite memory from the rivalry, though, was a game he didn't call.

"The Rose Bowl year with Ryan Leaf and those guys," Johnson said. "We were sitting at Husky Stadium and after we won people came onto the field. The UW officials were gracious enough to let us celebrate on their field. That was a great time."
I cannot underestimate the regard in which I hold Glenn. We are lucky to have him.


Ray Lindquist said...

Mayor Johnson has a good rating at:


Ray Lindquist said...

Check out this blog from time to time also: