Dr. Thomas Johnson an icon at Emory University through his years of devoted service to the school, passed away this past Friday (Sept. 16). He was 78 years old.
A long-time and valued member of the University’s physical education and athletic departments, Tom came to Emory in 1962 to pursue a M.Ed. degree in Health and Physical Education and remained with the school to build a remarkable career. In 1972, he obtained his Doctor of Education degree from the University of Georgia.
In 1965, he was appointed Emory track and field coach and quickly revived the program. In addition, after serving as an assistant for two years (1963 and 1964), he was elevated to head coach in 1965. During a memorable 22-year run in charge of the program, Johnson directed the Eagles to an overall record of 200-110-30 record, with many of those victories coming against NCAA I and II schools, as well as NAIA programs. His 1984 team was Emory’s first to receive a bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament, and the Eagles also received another postseason nod the following campaign. He directed the team in its inaugural season of University Athletic Association play in 1987, and his last collegiate win was a 2-1 decision over Vanderbilt University that same year. He was named the Southern Region Coach of the Year in 1983 and 1984. In 1993, he was inducted into the Emory Sports Hall of Fame.
“Tom Johnson may have been one of the most competitive guys I have known, said Emory head cross country and track and field coach John Curtin. “It didn’t matter if it was one of his team’s soccer matches or his weekly tennis match with faculty friends; Tom always played to win. As I remember, it never was a good idea to be around him after a loss. Tom coached track here in the early days and always took the time to stop by and ask me about the team. He took a lot of interest in our javelin throwers. Tom just loved sport, all sports. It was his life.”
Dr. Johnson spent his teaching career at Emory, where he served seven years as chair of the department of Health, Physical Education and Dance, and was promoted to the rank of full professor in 1999. He retired in 2010 and was honored with professor emeritus shortly after that.