SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Last June, an Evangel University graduate became one of only 0.4 percent of Army Medical Department Colonels to be promoted to Brigadier General. He now leads the premier medical institution in the U.S. Army.
BG Jeffrey J. Johnson is the Commanding General at the Army’s largest and busiest medical facility, the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas.
This month, Johnson will receive another honor during Evangel’s Homecoming Celebration, when he is named the Distinguished Alumnus for 2016. The presentation will be made during an 11 a.m. luncheon on Saturday, Oct. 22, at the University Plaza Convention Center.
Johnson graduated with honors from Evangel in 1987, a Distinguished Military Graduate with a B.S. in biology. He then earned his medical degree at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver.
A Board Certified Fellow in Family Medicine, he is also a Senior Flight Surgeon and a member of the Order of Military Medical Merit.
Johnson has been deployed five times, including two stints in Afghanistan.
The formative years
Jeffrey Johnson came to Springfield from Kalispell, Mont., and met another freshman named Eddie Jones. As EU students, they both earned ROTC scholarships and trained together for four years.
Johnson was the better soldier, according to Jones, and ended up serving his senior year as Battalion Commander of the joint ROTC program at Missouri State University.
“I remember one day we were both in uniform, when then-President Spence stopped to talk with us,” said Jones. “He told us, ‘We don’t have a general yet, among our alumni, so one of you men go and become a general.’”
Little did Spence know that he was speaking something into the heart of Johnson. And he was not the only one.
To this day, Jeff feels the influence of Evangel mentors like Dr. Joe Bohannon, professor of chemistry, who stressed the importance of developing both competence and character.
“Balancing development in both of these traits has been a life-long pursuit,” he said.
Johnson’s official bio notes that he “continuously aspires to be a student and a teacher.” Those words are borne out by a long list of programs of study he mastered in his pursuit of competence.
After med school, he completed residency training in family medicine, a fellowship in faculty development, a master’s degree in national and strategic studies, and additional military training in everything from federal healthcare initiatives, to biological casualties, to tactical combat medicine.
Addressing sexual assault
In his role as “teacher,” Johnson sought to work on the character of those under his command.
“One area I worked hard on was to address sexual assault within the Army,” he said. “I was not happy with our traditional training on the subject delivered via PowerPoint or videos. We continued to have events with resulting lifelong scars on the victims.
“To disrupt this trend, we worked with a professional in the discipline of interactive theater. We then brought together a group of soldiers who trained in this discipline and then created the three-part training program which fundamentally changed the conversation and actions regarding sexual assault within our unit.”
According to Johnson, “The effects were dramatic enough for the process to be picked up at the largest Army installation and then to be used across the U.S. Army Reserve units across the country.”
An outsider’s perspective
College friend Treva Baltis remembers Johnson as her lab teacher in Dr. Bohannon’s class during her senior year.
“At Evangel, Jeff talked about wanting to be a doctor who made house calls. He had a servant’s heart,” she said. “Thirty years later, I can say he has been consistent from the day I met him to today. There is just something about him that makes you want to be your best — and that is what makes him such a great leader.”
Several college-era friends made the trip to San Antonio last summer for Johnson’s installation service at the Brooke Army Medical Center.
Baltes was impressed that Johnson was quick to acknowledge and engage with others at all levels.
“Jeff was giving us a tour, and he stopped to thank the cleaning lady. A soldier delivering supplies was on the elevator with us, and Jeff engaged him in conversation, asking what he thought about his job. Frankly, he lives by the principles that Evangel teaches,” said Baltes.
“In some ways, Jeff is still that doctor who wants to make house calls. He has not pursued a position of power — he just does his best to lead, and God is honoring his faithfulness,” she concluded.
EU Homecoming 2016 honorees
Four additional alumni awards will be given during this year’s homecoming celebration. The recipients were chosen by the Evangel University Alumni Association Board of Directors:
- Evangel Outstanding Young Alumnus – Chaplain (Captain) Delana Small
- CBC Distinguished Alumnus – Greg Beggs
- CBC Outstanding Young Alumnus – Andy Estrella
- AGTS Alumnus of the Year – Chaplain (Major) J.P. Smith
For more information, contact the Evangel University Alumni Relations Department at (417) 865-2811, ext. 7333.