Johnson Tribute Demonstrates Depth of Wabash Relationships

Jim Amidon — Even though I’ve been around Wabash College for a very long time, it still surprises me how quickly things get rolling around here when school begins. Seems like yesterday that students reported to campus, but when I look at the calendar I get the sense we’re in mid-semester.

College — like every aspect of our lives — can often be brutally over scheduled.

In addition to football and soccer scrimmages, the cross country team hosted its annual Charlie Finch Memorial Alumni Meet Saturday, and in doing so welcomed scores of alumni who returned to say farewell to their former coach, Rob Johnson.

Click here to see photos from the tribute.

Coach Johnson, who has led the cross country program since 1972, stepped aside this year to allow Roachdale native Roger Busch, a 1996 Wabash graduate and multiple All-American runner, to take the reins of the distance running program.

While Johnson will continue to coach the indoor and outdoor track teams, the outpouring of love and affection for what he’s meant to his cross country runners was the theme of a special tribute that followed the alumni race.

Greg Birk ’77 (with Coach, below) did most of the event planning for the tribute. He called and wrote dozens of cross country alums from across the U.S. and urged them return in honor of Coach Johnson.

Why so much love for a coach? Because win or lose, Coach Johnson has always been true to his student-athletes. He has high expectations of them, but he doesn’t hold their hands or pound his chest with loud motivational speeches. Coach Johnson is beloved because he gets it; he gets Wabash and helps his athletes focus on the big picture that is their future.

“I’ve probably coached more doctors, lawyers, and CEOs than anybody in the country,” is usually how Johnson introduces himself to people who don’t know him or Wabash College.

Note: He never mentions how many All-Americans he’s coached , which is what I mean when I say, “he gets it.”

So while the packed first weekend schedule did catch me a bit off guard, the love the alumni runners showed for their coach does not. That’s the kind of place Wabash is. It’s a college that is made stronger by the intensity and depth of the relationships and connections that are forged here.

  1. Just a note to Coach Johnson and to Wabash from Mac McLaughlin, ’83.
    Thanks for the opportunity to run for you coach. It was great to see you at the 4 mile, and to run in the event. Work commitments kept me from attending the luncheon. It looks like it was a good session. Thanks also to Greg Birk for his work on this.!
    thanks for the follow-up card Roger Busch.

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