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Virginia Ann “Ginny” Johnson

 

Virginia Ann “Ginny” Johnson, dean of students at Salem College from 1968 to 1991, died Friday June 21, at the age of  91. Born January 15, 1928 to George Franklin Johnson and Hattie Covington Johnson in Greensboro NC, Ms. Johnson was a 1951 graduate of Wake Forest College where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education. She worked as a program director at YMCAs in Albemarle NC and Elkin NC before coming to Salem College in 1962 as a physical education teacher. She was named Dean of Students in 1968, a time when college students around the country were rebelling against rules and demanding more voice on campus. Dean Johnson from the start navigated those restless currents at Salem with a deft hand, and after just one year as dean, the senior class dedicated the 1969 yearbook to her, acknowledging her ability to bring out the best in students: “…Trusting in students and their responsible judgment, she has brought to Salem a creative spirit, from tennis shoes to high heels, a dynamic spirit loved by all.” Dianne Dailey, a Salem graduate who recently retired as women’s golf coach at Wake Forest University, knew Ms. Johnson both as a student and later as a colleague. “She never gave up on a student or wrote them off,” Ms. Dailey says. “She was one of the best problem solvers I have known and her door was always open. She didn’t tell students what to do, but asked questions and guided them to an acceptable solution. Most of my coaching skills came from her mentoring.” Martha Fleer, who initiated and built the adult degree program at Salem and for whom the college’s Fleer Center is named, recalls that Ms. Johnson “pushed me to fulfill my dreams of an adult degree program. She had more faith in me than I had in myself.” Ms. Johnson loved to travel. While at Salem College, with Jim Moon she helped establish a summer program in Asolo, Italy, and considered her summers there with students a high point of her career. After retiring, she traveled widely, with trips to Africa and especially to Central and South America where she immersed herself in the history of the Mayan and Incan civilizations. She also volunteered extensively in the community, working with the local Democratic party, and various women’s causes. Always an avid sports fan, she was a member of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons Club for 60 years. An active golfer, she also loved gardening, doted on her many dogs, and was a generous supporter of the Humane Society and many other animal rights and nature preservation organizations. Ms. Johnson was predeceased by her parents and by her two brothers, Thomas Johnson and George Johnson. At her request there will be no memorial service. There will however be a gathering at a later date to celebrate her life. Our heartfelt thanks go to the staff of Forest Heights Senior Living Community in Winston-Salem for making Ginny comfortable and happy during her last years. Memorial donations may be made to the Virginia A. Johnson Women’s Athletic Scholarship fund at Wake Forest University, or to the Virginia A. Johnson Scholarship Fund at Salem College.

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