By Sydney Tancowny
When we speak of community, we often speak in terms of belonging—a group of individuals that are discernible in the ways they are similar. However, the 2018 recipient of the Alumni Lois Aspenes Award, Larry Johnson, reminds us that community isn’t just about a sense of belonging, it’s also about using our own passions to build something together.
A third-generation Camrosian, Johnson is passionate about many things: family, the community he lives in, health care, Rotary, outdoor sculptures and, of course, a liberal arts and sciences education. An alumnus of Augustana Campus (then Camrose Lutheran College), Johnson has dedicated hours of his time to benefit the institution he believes in. From serving as the past Director of the Augustana Alumni Association to being a committee member on the University of Alberta Senate for two terms and a member on the 2010 Dean Selection Committee to a generous donor and a consistent supporter of all campus events, his passion is evident.
Johnson’s dedication to Augustana is only a part of his community contributions. After completing his law degree at the University of Alberta’s North Campus, Johnson returned to Camrose to begin his law practice. This was also when he was “roped” into sitting on the Camrose Public Library Board, which would only be the beginning of his community involvement. Johnson’s commitment has seen him sitting on the Camrose City Council for 12 years, working with the East Central Regional Health Authority, volunteering at the annual MS Bike Tour, being a continuing member of the Camrose Daybreak Rotary Club, an annual contributor to Reading University and obtaining outdoor sculptures for around Camrose’s Mirror Lake. Even when he has been discouraged from getting involved (like with the East Central Regional Health Authority during a time of health reform), he persisted, believing that he could learn from others as much as they could learn from him: “Everyone brings a little different experience to the table.”
This multi-leveled approach to community, perhaps, shares similarities to his powerful advocacy for a liberal arts and sciences education and learning to become well-rounded individuals. “There’s so much more to life than just your job. I just retired after a 42-year career, and I know that as a lawyer I helped a lot of people, but that wasn’t what made a lasting impact on my community. It was the other areas I’ve been involved in,” said Johnson.
Supporting the community initiatives he believes will benefit those in Camrose comes naturally to Johnson. Even so, he reminds us that we’re all passionate about something and he hopes people follow their passions and make their community a better place to live.
“I think often people say ‘well what can I do?’ Well, you can do a lot. The sculptures around Mirror Lake come from a trip to England my wife, Patrice, and I had, and we thought ‘This would be a great addition around Mirror Lake’. With the support of a number of groups became a reality and will continue to grow,” said Johnson. “If you have the passion, get involved and make it happen in your community.”
Since his days as a student, Larry Johnson has consistently dedicated his time and energy to ensure Augustana Campus thrives. He is a deserving recipient of this award for both his engagement and betterment of Augustana Campus and of the Camrose community. We are fortunate he shares his passion with us.
The Lois Aspenes Award recognizes the contributions of an alumnus/a to the life of Augustana.