Category: Homecoming


Stories from homecoming: JU alumnus focuses on worship as he returns for homecoming

This year’s homecoming saw the return of many Johnson alumni, including Ben Abbott, a 2009 Johnson graduate.Abbott said he returned for homecoming to see people, put aside responsibilities and to relax and be a worshiper.


Ben Abbott,2009 Johnson alumnus, happy to have come to see friends at this year’s homecoming.

“My responsibility here is to focus on God,” he said. “Not worry about all the fine details of lights and cameras and music and sermons.”

Usually he does have to worry about those things, having been senior pastor of Montague Church of Christ in Canada for the past five years. But now he’s back in the states and able to enjoy his time away.

Abbott said he felt a calling to ministry while he was in the U.S. Air Force. His niece and nephew had attended Johnson, so he heard about the university through them.

He said that when he called the school to inquire about attending, he somehow was connected to David Eubanks’ phone.

“I hadn’t known that he was the school’s president, and he never mentioned it,” Abbott said. “I didn’t know until I had met him in person.”

Awhile after the call Abbott said that Eubanks sent a letter “in his own handwriting saying he was praying for me,” he said. “A few years later I bumped into him here, and he said he was still praying for me.”

Before attending JU, Abbott visited the school for his nephew’s graduation. His nephew’s graduation  was the first time he met Eubanks in person.

“When we started talking he instantly remembered me,” Abbott said.

He said that Eubanks had recalled things from their conversations that even he couldn’t remember.

“At the end of our conversation he told me that he had still been praying for me all that time,” Abbott said.

Abbott said that having been remembered like that was a great feeling. He soon applied and was accepted into the school.

Abbott talked about how once he was here he felt welcomed into the Johnson family instantly.

He had mentors and friends and many other people that supported him through everything.

Abbott said that he would often meet his mentors for breakfast and talk with them when he needed help or advice. Professors would take time to work through things with him, being very understanding of his situations.

Abbott was married and already had one child when he came to Johnson as a student.

He said coming back for homecoming is a chance to see his friends.

“Johnson understands and gives a place — environment — that I can just be Ben, not resident or pastor or guru,” he said. “Here I get to sit with family and friends and be with them worshiping God.”


Stories from homecoming: Chairman positive about university’s future

KNOXVILLE — Homecoming week is a time for past and present students to interact and build on the foundation of what it means to be a part of the Johnson University community.

For L.D. Campbell, Chairman of the board of trustees and a 1965 graduate of JU, homecoming promised the chance to see familiar faces and an opportunity to visit his second home.

“Johnson University is where I met some of the most important people in my life,” Campbell said. “I met my wife and closest friends while attending Johnson Bible College.”


L.D. Campbell has helped lay the past, present and future foundation of  Johnson University

Campbell said he came to Johnson to pursue preaching and church leadership.

Campbell, originally from Burlington, Ky., enrolled in school in the summer of 1961 and worked on campus to help pay for school.

“I came out of Johnson knowing what a disciple of Jesus was and what was required of a disciple of Jesus,” Campbell said. “It came from the class room but more so from life on campus.”

During his three years working on campus, Campbell helped lay the foundation for some of the buildings still in use today.

Campbell has served for more than 10 years as the chairman of the board of trustees.

The board of trustees approves financial matters and guides the president of the university.

Throughout Campbell’s time as chairman, a lot has changed at Johnson.

Campbell was at the helm of the board as the school changed its name from Johnson Bible College to Johnson University and then merged with Florida Christian College.

“We took on the University title to bring in more majors so we can serve Christ in different ways,” Campbell said. “We are only going to continue to grow and find ways to spread the gospel to the ends of the Earth.”

In addition to serving on the board, Campbell is the pastor of First Church of Christ in Burlington, Ky., a position he has held for 27 years.

Campbell credits his time at Johnson for training him to go into the world and make an impact.






Stories from homecoming: A lot has changed at JU in half a century

Lemuel Hardison and his wife Maryland arrived on Johnson University’s campus Tuesday afternoon for Homecoming.

Hardison graduated from JU in 1966 and now works as pastor at Northspray Christian Church in Eden, North Carolina.

He has been coming back for Homecoming for many years now and said he enjoys it.

“It is refreshing to hear young professors preach,” Hardison said. “This is a good opportunity to come and get some good quality spiritual food.”

Hardison, who returns every year for Homecoming, said a lot has changed since he came to Johnson, especially the dorms.

“When I came I was in the old boy’s dorm,” Hardison said. “And the bathroom was at the end of the hall, just one big bathroom, and you stood in line to do everything. Now they got these nice dorms.”

Hardison said the technology available to JU students has also come a long way over the years.

“We had one telephone and it wasn’t in the dorm,” he said. “If you needed to make a phone call you had to go out there and use that.”

Hardison said that even the way students ate at Johnson University was completely different because they did not have many of the buildings the university has now.

“We did not have hot dog and hamburger shops and Starbucks like they got now all over campus, where you can go get a snack,” Hardison said. “They served breakfast at 6 a.m., lunch at noon, the evening meal at 5:30 or 6 p.m. and you were at those meals or you didn’t get anything to eat.”

Hardison said that the campus was configured differently in the 1960s compared to the way it is now.

“That old chapel was built and finished the year before I came, and we were the first year that got to use it,” Hardison said. “But [there was] the old chapel, the old main, the old gym and I think the building they call Bell Hall now was for married couples. There was a cow barn back then too.”

Maryland Hardison remembers how different things were as well.

“Couldn’t even hold hands back then,” Hardison said. “When I was here.”

Hardison and his wife stayed in Sevierville for Homecoming, but went back to their home in North Carolina after the last main Homecoming session Thursday.


President Weedman presents annual report  

KNOXVILLE —Johnson University President, Gary Weedman presented his annual financial report last Wednesday, including updated information on JU’s achievements and future plans.

Weedman began the session by mentioning the recent SACSCOC 10 year reaffirmation.

“It represents an enormous amount of work that goes on throughout the ten year period,” he said. “There are a lot of hands involved in the extensive report.”

In addition to institutional accreditation, Weedman mentioned the programatic accreditation Johnson has and hopes to continually attain in years to come.

This past year the university has received accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation, formally known as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.The School of Congregational Leadership and Bible Theology now have programatic accreditation.

“This past year we receieved CAEP accreditation,” he said. “We are happy to have accreditation by a nationally recognized agency.”

Weedman said Johnson has two building projects that are already underway.

“One is a landscaping project in the memorial gardens area,” he said. “We are going to build a columbarium, a repository for the remains of cremated bodies.”

Weedman believes that this new columbarium will be a “popular phenomenon” among people that inquire about being buried on campus.


JUTN President, Gary Weedman updates attendees on the current achievements and future goals of the university.

Another building that has been approved will be located behind Richardson Hall. This new building will house the music department on a temporary basis.

The major project that was approved is a recreation and athletic center. It will be a 92,ooo square foot building that will house two gymnasium floors, a food service venue, a pool, social space and fitness rooms.

Additional landscaping plans include adding a softball field and a few other recreation facilities including more tennis courts and an enlarged baseball field.

The total cost for this project is approximately $19 million.

“We think that this athletic center will make us competitive again,” Weedman said.”It’s going to be located on the sports campus on Hodges Ferry Road.”

The financial report for Johnson University Florida included preliminary plans for a cafeteria.

“We are absolutely convinced that we cannot grow the campus without a cafeteria,” he said.”That is about a 4 million dollar project and that will be a part of this major campaign.”

In addition to the capital campaign, Johnson has now finished the first year of the Future of Hope initiative.

“Not only have we started, but we have been successful in the first year,” Weedman said.

Weedman also announced recent advances in JU’s online degree program.

“Our online degree program has increased to about 300 and we have 25 academic programs that can be done online,” he said.”I think Ashley Johnson would be ecstatic to see us use 21st century technology in accomplishing what he did in the late 19th century.”

Weedman briefly touched on the Chinese program, which highlighted partnerships with four Chinese universities.

Weedman said he was happy to announce that Johnson was ranked No. 3 on the 2017 20 Best Value Small Colleges for a Christian Studies Degree list.

After opening the floor to questions, the session concluded with progress in the Indianapolis and Louisville residency programs and Johnson’s involvement with the Tennessee Promise.


JU alumnus returns to celebrate Homecoming hospitality

KNOXVILLE — Pastor Tom Cash, a 2000 Johnson University graduate in the preaching and church leadership program, has served in ministry for forty years. He spoke on his ministry experience and why Homecoming is so important to him below.



Johnson to host homecoming 2017

KNOXVILLE — Johnson University’s annual homecoming celebration is just a few weeks away. Each year the campus takes on a different energy as alumni return to campus.

Homecoming is slated for Feb. 21-23.

The theme of this year’s homecoming will be “A Heart for God.”

“This week, we celebrate the school’s history and future with alumni, students, faculty/staff, friends and leaders,” Rachelle Baggett, event coordinator for homecoming, said.

Randy Harris, a professor of Bible, missions and ministry at Abilene Christian University, is this year’s keynote speaker. Harris will be speaking alongside well known Johnson University professors Brent Brewer, Jody Owens and Daniel Overdorf.

The worship leaders will include Dean of Chapel Bill Wolf, Brent Weaver and Johnson’s Tour Choir.

Workshops for this year’s homecoming are Developing Mission Partnerships in the Local Church, Developing Worship in the Local Church, Developing Disciples in the Local Church and Developing A Heart For Leadership: Ideas Worth Sharing.

Along with main sessions and workshops much more is happening behind the scenes.

Homecoming also includes many class reunions, an international food festival, a Global Learning Center ribbon cutting ceremony and a student/alumni floor hockey game.

This years class reunions will include the classes of 2012, 2007, 1997, 1992, 1987, 1982, 1977 and 1967 years.

Students can expect many visitors on campus and have February 21 and 22 off from class.

“Students will be able to build relationships and network with great ministries and organizations that will open doors to new opportunities and interests,” Baggett said.

Many guests stay in campus housing, giving student an opportunity to get to know alumni.

“We will have many guests on campus — some of whom will be staying in both dorms,” Matt Shears, Director of Alumni Relations, said.

Shears asks that students get to know the visitors and learn about Johnson’s past.

Any non students wanting to attend this event can register online at

Any questions can be directed to Johnson University’s advancement office at 865-251-2226.


JU alumni Graffs return for homecoming

KNOXVILLE – Throughout homecoming week, many alumni returned to their alma matter: Johnson University.

Among these alumni were Bruce and Mary Ann Graff, class of ’77 and ’76, respectively.  The Graffs reflected on the sense of community they felt at Johnson, and discussed friendships that have lasted since they were students.

Mr. Graff said, “Johnson friends are forever, and it’s a bond that we always knew that if we ran into problems, we would just have to say that we were [from] Johnson and there would be help. There’s that Johnson bond.”

Mr. Graff said that when he travels, he knows that if he runs into any kind of trouble, there will always be a Johnson alumni close by willing to help.

“We met here,” Mrs Graff said. “He (Mr. Graff) prepared to be a preacher and he’s been a preacher ever since. [Johnson impacted] our marriage, our vocations, and our friendships.”

Johnson University has created lasting effects for thousands of students over the decades, and it is not something the Graffs will soon forget.

“The most important part of what Johnson has done is the prayer,” Mr. Graff said. “I’ve never seen a network of prayer and support anywhere else. To me, that’s the core.”


Alumni, students fellowship yearly over competition

It’s a normal weekday evening at the Old Gym where a group of about 15 area high school kids have gathered for an impromptu basketball game. A handful of their peers lounge in the balcony, watching as their friends goof off in-between shots. Soon, though, the teenagers hit the sidelines and call it quits. The gym has been reserved by a campus group.

Students, faculty and alumni converge on the well-worn brick building that has served as a fixture on campus for over 60 years. With Homecoming in full-swing, Johnson University has played host to a plethora of reunions and get-togethers this week, but the Old Gym is the last place anyone would expect to see a diverse gathering of old friends— old friends with light-hearted grudges— on a Wednesday night at 9 p.m.

The two small LED scoreboards on opposing walls light up and a flurry of activity breaks out as the countdown to zero begins. Portable nets are erected at each end of the court and alumni dressed in white, students dressed in blue, take practice shots at fully equipped goal-keepers. Floor hockey, as the participants call it, is about to begin.

Onlookers fill the spectator gallery. Old Testament Professor and hockey enthusiast Steve Cook readies a stat sheet and referees dressed in pin-stripe black and white prepare to officiate. This isn’t Intramurals. This isn’t your usual Wednesday night pick-up play. This is the much anticipated 2016 Alumni-Student Game.

As far as competition and excitement go, the annual match-up that pits graduates against students rivals the Battle for the Frances Cup, the fall intramural championship game. Since 2010, each year during Homecoming the captain from the winning intramural team gets to select an elite squad of students to face the alumni in an annual show-down.

With three wins, (one in a shootout) two losses and a tie, heading into the night the alumni lead the series with seven standing points to the student’s six. All wins count for two points while ties and shootout losses count for one. As Frances Cup winner and student captain Tate Abernathy huddles his team together before the game, he knows that this could be the year they pull ahead. An out-right win would give them the series lead.


Tyson Chastain, a 2000 graduate and alumni team-member, remembers hockey on campus in its fledgling stages.

“Just as best I can remember,” Chastain said with a nostalgic smile, “I think it was 1996 when myself and two or three other Johnson students who had an interest in hockey just started beating around a tennis ball in the Old Gym or what have you. As time went on, we got a couple more guys involved. In the early days, it was just playing with tennis balls and sticks.”

Though Chastain admits to being a little fuzzy on the details, he says that somewhere along the line, the school began supporting the game— supplying goals, goalie equipment and regulation orange balls for intramural competition. Eventually, the Frances Cup Championship was born in 2004. Later on, goalie Abigail Brunsman Lindsey suggested an alumni game.

“This student right here,” Steve Cook explained, pointing to Lindsey’s picture in a yearbook, “played off and on throughout her time here and she graduated in 2009. A few months later as she was planning to come back for Homecoming, she said something about ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a game of students versus alumni?'”


Participants pose together following the 2011 Alumni-Student Game.

Cook, who has been active in intramural floor hockey since soon after coming to work at Johnson in 2003, contacted alumni, discussed the plan with students and put into action the first iteration of the Alumni-Student Game at Homecoming 2010. Since then, the competition has become a mainstay on campus for floor hockey enthusiasts with a winner declared each year, with the exception of 2012, when the Old Gym’s electricity failed during the first intermission. That game was declared the only tie in the series.


A crowd of mostly current students packs the seating area of the Old Gym as three 12-minute periods of intense action unfold. Tension fills the room as play remains scoreless until midway through the second period when 2009 Graduate Jason Schimke collects a rebound and slings the ball into the goal. His wife and children cheer from the stands as he thrusts a fist into the air in celebration. Two more alumni score back-to-back goals at the start of the third period, taking the life out of the crowd and seemingly assuring a win.

Three minutes remain in the game when Tate Abernathy heroically finds the back of the net after an earlier goal by teammate Jason Resciniti, cutting the alumni lead to one. With victory again in sight, the crowd goes wild until a whistle blows, waiving the score. The building erupts with booing over the unpopular, yet fair, off-sides call. Unable to score again, the student team concedes 3-1 to the alumni, who increase their standing points to nine, forcing the students to wait at least two more years before they can hope to gain bragging rights.


Following the fierce competition, the two sides shook hands before catching up over a relaxed pick-up game. With the atmosphere less tense, junior Jason Resciniti, the lone goal-scorer for the students, summed up the spirit of the night.

“Its a good time for the students and the alumni to come together and enjoy the fact that we both come from the same institution— we’re both from the same place. It’s just fellowship, and that’s really all it is,” Resciniti said. “Would I have liked to have won? Yeah, that would have been phenomenal. But, you know what? It’s really a good time to just come together with the alumni. These are a lot of guys we see once a year just for this game. We know that years ago they were doing the same stuff here that we were doing, and it’s just a good time.”

The tradition continues at Homecoming next year.