Olivet mourns loss of Dr. Ken Johnson, engineering chair
Posted: Nov 04, 2013
Since joining the Olivet faculty in 2012, Dr. Ken Johnson quickly established himself as valuable leader, mentor, teacher and friend.
Dr. Johnson: “I want to help unlock the potential of technology, engineering and innovation for a greater, Christian purpose.”
Ken was husband to Jennifer (Alberts) ’93, and father of four children: Sydney, Erick, Luke and Bethany.
“Engineering, at its core, seeks to leverage a deeper understanding of God’s physical creation for some useful purpose.” Penned by Dr. Kenneth Johnson, these words reflect the unwavering commitment of a man whose life was dedicated to serving Christ and bringing hope to those in need.
Today, Olivet Nazarene University mourns the loss of Dr. Kenneth Johnson, chair of the Department of Engineering. Since joining the Olivet faculty in 2012, he quickly established himself as valuable leader, mentor, teacher and friend.
“We are heartbroken this morning as we process the loss of a dear friend,” said Dr. John C. Bowling, University president. “Ken was deeply faith-driven and a tremendous professor who inspired greatness from his students and everyone around him. He was respected and loved by all who knew him.”
Dr. Johnson, a 1993 graduate of Olivet, passed away following an apparent heart attack, while competing in a bicycle race in northern Michigan. He was husband to Jennifer (Alberts) ’93, and father of four children: Sydney, Erick, Luke and Bethany.
Under Dr. Johnson’s leadership, Olivet’s engineering department experienced an unparalleled spike in student enrollment. The number of students majoring in engineering went from 105 in 2011 to 150 this fall — 71 of whom are first-time freshmen or transfers. He also successfully led the department through an intensive scheduled review for accreditation with the Engineering Commission for ABET, ensuring Olivet's engineering program meets or exceeds all the standards for full accreditation until the next comprehensive review in 2017-2018.
Dr. Johnson taught his students that their gifts and talents could be leveraged for a greater purpose, often referring to them as “missioneers.” In a recent interview, he summarized a belief he regularly stated in his classes: “Christian engineers have tremendous potential to transform the world for Christ. Whether they go on to work for Boeing, Caterpillar, serve on the mission field or wherever, our students can be a powerful force for achieving Christ’s mandate to help those in need and spread the hope of the Gospel around the world.”
To that end, Dr. Johnson led multiple engineering service projects, including taking a team of students to Swaziland in spring 2013, where they installed a water irrigation system they had designed to help improve crop production and provide food to a community ravaged by HIV/AIDS. He was also excited about a project he and his students were working on together, making use of a new lightweight metal alloy for missionary bicycles in world areas where transportation is difficult. As project manager, he led Olivet’s work in additive manufacturing and 3D printing projects with Nexus LCM, a leading developer of advanced 3D printing solutions.
Dr. Johnson came to Olivet at the peak of his career in engineering. As the senior researcher and president of Solidica, Inc., he led a $20 million product development expansion, culminating in new product launches in both advanced intermetallic materials and next generation vehicle telematics. During his tenure, the company significantly expanded its customer base to a wide variety of Fortune 500 companies.
Prior to his work with Solidica, he served as commercialization executive for Delphi Corporation, Troy, Mich. During his outstanding professional career, he was also executive director for Technology Research Corporation, Ann Arbor, Mich.; advanced technology program manager for the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences; and a principal investigator for several research and development programs sponsored through federal and state government agencies, including the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and Department of Transportation.
Dr. Johnson held two patents, was the recipient of numerous industry awards, regularly presented at international conferences and expositions, and published articles in multiple scholarly and industry journals.
“By the world’s standards, I had achieved success in every sense of the word,” Dr. Johnson said in an interview, shortly after joining Olivet’s faculty, “but I knew in my heart there had to be more. I want to help unlock the potential of technology, engineering and innovation for a greater, Christian purpose.”
To everyone who knew him, it was clear he did just that. The impact of Dr. Johnson’s life on his students, family, colleagues and friends will only be measured in eternity.