Developing a vision into reality

July 1, 2014

NNU’s Centennial was a year of remembering, honoring and celebrating. It took the entire university community to make it possible, but there are a few key individuals without whose efforts it would not have been the same. Kathy (Slonaker) Johnson worked tirelessly before, after and during the Centennial Celebration to ensure that the vision for the year was fulfilled.

Kathy has a strong four-generation family legacy at NNU that began with her grandfather, Clarence M. Newton, and continues through the generations to her daughters, Carmen and Hilary. She also met her husband, Dennis (’76), here.

Since graduating in 1975, Kathy has served in many roles on campus. After graduate school, she returned to NNU to begin and direct the Career Planning and Placement Center, which continues to this day to assist students. She has also served as an adjunct professor in the business department and as grant program manager for the K-12 Capacity Building Murdock Grant. “Of all the places I have worked in my life, I keep returning here; it is my favorite place,” she shares. “Family history and heritage have been made here, as well as many important personal friendships over the years.”

Kathy shares that her primary motivation in accepting the role of leading the Centennial Steering Committee was that it gave her the opportunity to serve the university in a big way. “I have thoroughly enjoyed promoting the mission, history, legacy and future of this great place,” she says. “I really felt it was my duty to ensure that the university was appropriately honored and well celebrated and that alumni returning to campus would be proud of their alma mater and have a renewed desire to send their children here.”

There were many memorable moments throughout the year, both stressful (changing the date of the Gala at the last moment) and humorous (an honoree’s misplaced baggage and nick of time airport arrivals), but Kathy says that some of her best memories are those surrounding the honoring of the 100 Centennial Medallion recipients. “I loved both the logistics involved in coordinating each presentation and bringing honor to those who have contributed and accomplished so much over the 100 years.”

However, the memory to top all others is the President’s Gala. Kathy shares impressions of the event: “People entered the ballroom to darkness with 83 spotlights beaming down on red-rose centerpieces set against dark silver cloths. Then, the booming voice and video presentation began on the Grove’s largest-ever display of screens across the north wall. It was very exciting, as was the standing ovation of the sold-out crowd of 832 people for our 250-person choir and orchestra presentation at the end of the evening.”

President David Alexander affirms, “The success of the NNU Centennial Celebration can be linked directly to the creativity, hard work and diligence of Kathy and JoAnn. From the Gala’s custom truffles to a sold-out Michael W. Smith concert with orchestra and alumni choir, JoAnn and Kathy made NNU shine!”