It was at their son’s viewing in 2013 that Dr. Dave and Jerri Johnson realized there was much about their son they didn’t know.
At Dr. Kenneth Johnson’s funeral, professor at Olivet from 2012-2013, as friends of his approached Dave and Jerri, they told them story after story of how Ken had impacted their life. “We began to envision a book about how God worked through a gifted and talented person open to God’s leading,” Dave said.
That book will hit the Olivet Nazarene University bookstore in May, titled “An Unexpected Finish Line Leaves a Unique Legacy.” It is put together chronologically, beginning with Dave and Jerri’s marriage, the early years of Ken’s life and moving into his teen years, his heart for missions and professional life, and, finally, “The Last Race.”
Ken served as chair of Olivet’s engineering department from July 2012 until his sudden passing while competing in a race Nov. 2, 2013. During his year and a half on staff at Olivet, he led the engineering department in growth and vision, referring to his engineering students as “missioneers” – missionaries and engineers.
“What we built into the book were a couple of concepts,” Dave said. “I wanted to have more in the book than Ken’s story. Even if you weren’t a friend of his, somehow you pick this book up and learn ‘what is a legacy.’”
“It was very healing for me,” Jerri said. “But I’ll never write another [book] as long as I live,” she added with a laugh.
“I hope students reading this book see that in such a short time, you can make a huge impact,” said Amanda Luby, former student of Ken’s, assistant professor in the Engineering Department and contributor to the book. “I hope they can see how much of an impact Christian Engineers can have,” she said.
When going through his things after his passing, Dave and Jerri found a journal Ken kept from the time he graduated high school into his 40s. Although he didn’t keep it updated very much (there was even an eleven year gap at one point, Jerri said), a lot of his stories and quotes were pulled from his journal and put in this book.
Many people Ken knew throughout his life also contributed to this book – including students, co-workers at Olivet and Dr. John Bowling’s words from Ken’s funeral.
“His life was cut short. Our hope and prayer is the way this book has evolved will be a blessing to many people,” Dave said.
“Our goal is that people will be inspired and some people will come to the Lord through this book,” Jerri said.
A Leader with an amazing
dream influencing a multitude of individuals with a relaxed strength and an ability to develop friendship across cultures are only a couple of reasons why this book arrests my attention.
This book uniquely portrays Ken Johnson as a man with a deep passion for life, a person to serve others, a passion for missions, a strong work ethic, and most importantly, the desire to know God deeply and intimately. Highly regarded by both peers and friends, alike, indeed, Dr. Ken Johnson is “A MAN WORTH KNOWING”
-Kenneth L. Mills
District Superintendent Mid-Atlantic District Church of the Nazarene
This book is a great tribute to Ken! It certainly captures the breadth and depth of his capabilities, intellect and character. His exceptional people skills enabled him to relate and function with everyone he encountered in his brief time on earth.
The information in this story confirmed to me all of the positive and enthusiastic comments I have heard about Ken and the impact he had during his time at ONU!
His legacy will live on in the success on the School of Engineering and its graduates! Thank you for giving me the opportunity for reading this life story of a very remarkable Christian leader.
(On October 6, 2015 the Olivet engineering program entered a new era with the dedication of the Martin D. “Skip” Walker School of Engineering. Mr. Walker guided and grew a number of leading manufacture and business enterprises in a career spanning six decades.)
TREMENDOUS! I have never met Dr. Ken Johnson but after reading the book “An Unexpected Finish Line Leaves a unique Legacy”, I have now met Dr. Ken Johnson! What vivid memories, stories, and tributes have been collected about an outstanding educator, missioneer, athlete, husband, father, son, and friend of thousands.
Ken Johnson died at age 43. Our son Dave, at age 45. My heart knows how the entire Johnson family feels——- there aren’t enough words to explain it. All I can say is——-what a powerful and godly legacy left by this outstanding child of God, Dr. Ken Johnson
-Dr. James H. Dielh
General Superintendent Emeritus Church of the Nazarene