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Meeting Mr. Richard Johnson


On a bright sunny day, here at Shasta, I sat down to talk with a very interesting man— Richard Johnson. Who is this Richard Johnson, you might be wondering? Well, he is a Financial and Management Consultant/Investor and Education Activist. Both he and his wife, Sandra Johnson, are former Shasta College instructors who taught in the Business Department. Presently, the Johnsons are Scholarship Donors to Shasta College students. Perhaps most importantly though, is that Richard is a man who strongly believes in the value of education and the benefits of attending a strong foundational school, such as Shasta College. And he wants to make a difference for students everywhere.  After having a brief informal conversation in the Lance office, we began the interview.

L: “What is your affiliation to Shasta College?”

RJ: “Talking to the President of the college, [Mr.] Wyse, talking about that, I saw and read how low the graduation rate is from Shasta College and how many students had to take remedial English or math, right out of high school… and it absolutely staggered me. So, we started talking about how that could be improved. And secondly, my background, like so many students here, coming from lower, uh, economics… growing up I worked my way through school and [went] pretty much the path of about 30-40% of the students. How do we get the other 70% to realize it’s worth doing? Education is extremely important. How do convince people that it is worth the time and effort now and then it will pay dividends for the rest of your life? So it seemed natural [since] at one time I taught part time out here… we are looking for ways to show students to put the time in their studies; do well. The resources today—compared to what I went through— there’s a lot more resources here. Distraction is as high as it’s ever been, but the opportunities are great. It takes concentration and dedication.”

L: “So you’re planning to do a little something out here… What can you tell me about that?”

RJ: “Some of the things we talked about were just a question and answer period [in the dining room of the Shasta College cafeteria for free] and make it interactive so that the students feel like they’re getting something out of it… Something that will help them along the way. Usually when making a difference, you don’t do it by yourself. You do it will a small group, a large group… So you get what they’re thinking and what you’re thinking… [Students can ask anything] about life experience, work experiences… experience in general. It goes back to coach Wooden down at UC L.A, a huge campus, [he] would go through the [cafeteria] line and sit at a table and wait and then you could come over and ask, ‘may I have lunch with you’ and he would say, ‘of course!’ and you would get to talk about whatever was happening and what his opinions were. There was no preaching. It was all life lessons. ”

L: “So, another question I had was, ‘who are some of the people who have inspired you?’ I take it that Coach Wooden is one of them?”

RJ: “Oh, yes. He’s right up there at the top. There have been, oh, about 5 or 6 teachers who have really made a difference at the time when I started community college. Mr. Norman, [my accounting teacher], told me I was doing pretty well and asked what I was doing over vacation… he had someone who needed someone to balance their accounts… he picked me out and said, ‘yeah, I think you can do it.’ And I would suggest to all students along the way that you write down every few years who are the teachers that have really stood out to you and said, ‘yeah, they can do it.’ Too many students, I think go through school and never find a mentor.  That’s a resource that you need to use. Other people who I have worked for, or worked with… you take inspiration from them.”

L: “If there’s one thing that you could leave the students with, what would it be?”

RJ: “I have 50-60 years’ work experience, and what students can take from that to achieve whatever their goal s are… And what I get out of it is making a difference. Community college is the foundation. It’s the base. Distractions are high but the opportunities are just as high. And it’s worth it to take the opportunity to have such a strong foundation to build the rest of your life on. All of these people are willing to help you; you just got to walk through the door.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I do believe this man is a keeper. Richard Johnson




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