1952 Johnson alumnus reminisces on campus life

KNOXVILLE– As many alumni of Johnson University have departed from campus, one particular alumnus named Donald Tharp has left current Johnson students with some advice as they go through college.

Donald Tharp is a Johnson alumnus from the class of 1952. Tharp graduated from Johnson University and went into the ministry field. He recently retired a year ago and is currently a resident in Mount Carmel, Illinois.

His most enjoyable memory at Johnson was meeting the love-of-his-life, Doris, who he later married. When she passed away, he thought his world was coming to an end until God placed his second wife, Betty Tharp, in his life.

“I can’t see well enough anymore—God sent Betty to me and she is my eyes,” he said.

Tharp has been preaching since the age of 18, and he also helped in building the Old Gym in 1951. In his years at Johnson as a poor young man, he earned money in any way he could.

Donald M. Tharp, class of 1952.
 “Johnson took me in as a poor, young boy,” he said. “Johnson was good to teach us the Bible even when we didn’t have any money.”

While at Johnson, Tharp earned money by helping around the school, cutting hair, ironing shirts, and many other ways. His only regret is that he wishes he could have studied more than he worked.

Just talking about his memories at Johnson brought him to tears. During his college years, he said that Johnson taught him how to include God in his schedule, despite how much he worked.

“You have to put God in your schedule—we shouldn’t spend too much time working rather than studying or spending time with God,” he said. “Johnson taught me how to schedule my time with God and to do the hard things first.”

He also reminisced on an important lesson he learned in his economic class. This lesson motivated him in his years at Johnson.

“People do not realize the importance of putting God first in your life,” he said.  “My teacher taught us to tithe 10 percent and to save 10 percent for a rainy day. At Johnson, you learn to live off of the rest and for me I thought that was impossible since I was so poor.”

For anyone that is entering the ministry vocation, Tharp mentioned how it has not been an easy ride, but that Johnson has been a foundation for him to keep going.

“In ministry you get a lot of blows— Johnson has given me the faith to take the bumps in life, like the death of my mother and of my wife,” he said. “There were many hardships in ministry, but I never quit.”

Donald Tharp had a few words of encouragement for current Johnson University students:

“Don’t waste your time, work hard, pray before making any decision, and never give up,” he said.

Homecoming 2016 brought back many memories for Donald Tharp that he cherishes and he hopes that current students will have the same life changing experiences.


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