Southern reflects on death of professor

Southern reflects on death of professor

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Southern reflects on death of professor

Educator, mentor, community leader, father and friend “Bernie” Bernard Johnson, professor of marketing, will be remembered for his contributions to Missouri Southern and his mentorship.

Johnson, 61, of Joplin passed away in the early morning hours of Nov. 1. A Missouri Southern graduate, Johnson was a professor here for 33 years. “Bernie Johnson was a key link between the business school and the business community,” said Dr. Brad Kleindl, dean of the Robert W. Plaster School of Business Administration. “His many years of experience were very valuable in helping us consult and work with a lot of start-up businesses.”

Johnson began teaching at Missouri Southern in 1974 and received tenure in 1977. He was promoted from associate professor to professorship in 2002. He served on a variety of committees on campus, involved in projects as diverse as director of the Small Business Institute and chairman of search committees for both football and basketball coach. He also served on the search committee for a new department head, helping select Kleindl, one of his former students.

“If it wasn’t for him and his early mentoring,” Kleindl said, “I probably would not have a career in higher education.”

Deeply involved in the community, Johnson served as mayor of Joplin in the early 90’s, and a city council member prior to that. Johnson and his wife, Sharon spoke together at business conferences.

He was among the first graduating class from Missouri Southern State College in 1969. In an interview earlier this year Johnson told The Chart that he was proud to teach at his alma mater, giving him a vested interest in the educational process.

“I think Bernie’s first love was to work with students,” Kleindl said. “To help them start and develop their careers and literally he has had a very strong impact on thousands of students who I’m sure remember him fondly.”

Co-workers described him as devoted to his wife, their children and grandchildren, and a reliable friend.

“He’s been a long time friend, he’s been next door for 19 years,” said Dr. Bill Stevens, professor of management and close friend. “You could always count on Bernie as someone to listen to and always take things to heart.”

Stevens describes Johnson as a popular professor among students. Often on his way to class and he was known to chuckle and say, “Well I’m going to go stamp out ignorance.”

“I can talk to students that I know who have been out of school for years and they’ll remember Bernie,” Stevens said.

“He was great for Southern, he was great for the City of Joplin. There’s not going to be anybody like Bernie at Missouri Southern,” Stevens said describing him as loyal, trustworthy, and truthful. “To have all the qualities that Bernie had in one, that’s not going to happen.”