First You Study, Then You Teach, Then You Keep Studying – Remembering Robert Lee Johnston, Jr.

Robert Lee Johnston, Jr.

Robert Lee Johnston, Jr.

after studying family genealogy, he became a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.
From the obituary of Robert Lee Johnston Jr., 1922-2014


Fourteen days after his 92nd birthday, Robert Lee Johnston, jr. died last week. I’ve known him since 1969. He taught me Greek at Abilene Christian College (now University), and I married his/their daughter, Jeannie. (Pop’s wife of 62 years, Vee, died in 2008). For the last four years of his life, he lived with us. But I knew him a long time.

He read nine languages, and taught primarily three. In the service remembering his life, all four of us who spoke – me, another son-in-law, the minister, and another professor – all four of us had Mr. Johnston as a Greek teacher. (I was not one of his better students).

I read the obituary, and made comments in the service. There were many… But for this blog post, let me tell you that when I read the line “after studying family geneology,” I paused, and described Mr. Johnston as a student. He was thorough; meticulous. I saw his primary project from his graduate work days at the University of Texas. It was many, many pages, handwritten, color-coded, all in pursuit of one key element of Greek grammar. Today, I watch my wife follow in his footsteps in her own genealogical research. She caught his thoroughness gene.

I forget which book I read this in—but in one, the author said that you place your child under a good piano teacher not (just) to learn piano, but to learn how to learn a skill with thoroughness. Mr. Johnston exemplified such learning capability – in many study projects in his life.

He was a great teacher – meaning, his students went on to use the knowledge and skills they gained from him for a life of study, preparation, teaching, communication…

Before he was a great teacher, he was a great student. And they really do go together. It takes great study discipline to become a great teacher.

Abilene Christian University has designated the honor given to the outstanding 2nd year Greek Student the (newly named) R. L. Johnston, Jr. Award. I’m glad.

I share today this caution – be careful about throwing the word “study” around too casually. I’ve seen Mr. Johnston study, and I saw the result of his effort. If you say you are studying something, that’s a serious claim. Take that task very seriously. Think about a professor/student/professor with his multi-multi-paged color-coded notes of his current study project, and ask, “do I take my study this seriously?”

To study anything with such genuine thoroughness is the best way to learn, isn’t it?

3 thoughts on “First You Study, Then You Teach, Then You Keep Studying – Remembering Robert Lee Johnston, Jr.

  1. Bob Levoy

    This is a lovely tribute to a great teacher and I’m sure, an inspiration to many students. Thank you for sharing his story.

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