Wed | May 27, 2020

Kingston College's Ivan 'Wally' Johnson dies

Published:Wednesday | December 31, 1969 | 7:00 PM
Ivan 'Wally' Johnson

Howard Campbell, Sunday Gleaner Writer

In terms of commitment and love of school, Ivan 'Wally' Johnson was the ultimate Kingston College (KC) man. When he bled, it is likely to have been purple.

Johnson, who had a 63-year association with the North Street school, died last Friday after a long fight with cancer. He was in his early 70s.

Since first donning the school's famous purple and white tie as a student in 1948, Johnson never left its hallowed halls. He served as teacher, mentor and administrator in the mould of other KC stalwarts such as its founder, Bishop Percival Gibson, and former principal Douglas Forrest. Johnson was also principal at KC from 2002 to 2006.

Born in St Andrew, Johnson came from a family of five brothers and one sister. All brothers - including Jamaica's current high commissioner to London, Anthony Johnson - attended KC.

Neville 'Teddy' McCook, a long-time friend of Johnson, who went to KC in 1951, told The Sunday Gleaner he last saw Johnson one week before his death and his health had deteriorated considerably.

"He was very Kingston College. There wasn't anything Wally would not do for the school," McCook said.

True purple heart

President of the KC Old Boys' Association, Dr Roy Fraser, described Johnson as an "outstanding old boy, a true purple heart".

"He integrated well with the students and was tremendously loved by the boys," Fraser added.

Delano Franklyn, former government minister and senator, said Johnson epitomised everything Bishop Gibson envisaged for the Anglican school he started in 1925.

"He was a phenomenal teacher who went beyond the call of duty and literally carried KC on his back," Franklyn said. "He's someone of whom Bishop Gibson would have been exceedingly proud."

In a tribute yesterday, Professor Stephen Vasciannie, chairman of the school board, said Wally Johnson was a veritable institution at Kingston College who contributed, in various leadership capacities, to the growth and development of thousands of KC students.

Vasciannie said he would be remembered for leading the school through times of economic stress and working for the upliftment of boys from all parts of Jamaican society.

Indomitable will to win

"In his capacity as acting principal, Mr Johnson was always kind, compassionate, and determined to ensure that academic excellence was combined with the indomitable 'purple-hearted' will to win, and social sensitivity. As acting principal, he served with dedication and integrity, and with a strong team around him, was able to maintain standards at Kingston College with a smile, quick wit, and sound judgement," he added.

He noted too that over extended periods of the history of the school, many students would have encountered him as an artist, English literature specialist, debating coach or quiz adviser. "He was, in particular, gifted with an artistic hand, and motivated younger artists from the ranks of his beloved alma mater," Vasciannie said.

At an October 2006 function honouring the KC class of 1976, Johnson jokingly addressed the perceived haughtiness of its students given the school's achievements.

"A lot of persons find us a little overbearing and even when we do step on some toes, generally, theirs is a grudging admiration of the KC spirit. I wouldn't change it for a thing!"

Ivan 'Wally' Johnson is survived by his widow and three children.