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?

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

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

  2. Mr. Johnston’s greek classes informed and directed my life. I studied Koine for 2 years (77-79). I was one of the stellar students…and the only woman in class! I had to do well! Later, I married a Greek major and went on to study Classical Greek. Although I consider myself still a novice, the Greek learned still informs me. I regret that I gave away the Greek Grammar book that we all started with in 101. Thanks you Mr. Johnston, may you rest in peace.
    Robin Stamps (nee Moore)

  3. Thank you for your comment. I just shared with my wife; Mr. Johnston’s daughter. She was appreciative, and I think her plan is to share it with her siblings.

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