Perry Johnson, a retired University of Toledo exercise science professor who promoted health and fitness and taught others to do the same, died Tuesday in Toledo Hospital. He was 81.
Mr. Johnson of Sylvania learned Nov. 13 he had leukemia, 15 months after he was told he had a blood marrow disease. He played tennis twice a week at age 80, his daughter, Gail, said.
“He fought such a courageous battle,” she said. said. “He was so weak, but his mind was still working 100 miles an hour, bless his heart.”
He retired in 1987 from UT, where he was chairman of the health promotion and human performance department. He’d also been director of the health, physical education, and recreation division and an assistant dean of the education college. He taught one term a year through 1998.
He started at UT in 1960. By 1970, UT’s health and physical education department was a recognized leader in a new trend — emphasis on individual needs instead of group activity.
“He was a thinker who was ahead of his time,” said Jeff Seemann, a former student whose doctorate in exercise science is from UT.
Mr. Johnson taught anatomy and physiology to nursing students, among others. He taught graduate courses in exercise physiology and nutrition science. He measured effects of exercise on lab rats. He published extensively.
“He helped a lot of students go into a field to help a lot of people,” his daughter said.
Students learned to express themselves clearly and concisely in his graduate-level scientific research and writing course, said Helene Szczerba, a former student.
“To this day, I use the techniques he taught us.”
He had a “kind of no-nonsense exterior about him,” Ms. Szczerba said, but students who approached him found “he was just one of the nicest, down-to-earth people you could ever meet. You weren’t just talking to him as student to an instructor. It was person to person.”
He held elected posts with the American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. He was an emeritus fellow of the American Academy of Kinesiology and the American Academy of Sports Medicine.
He spread his message beyond the academy. In discussing his book, Fitness and You, he said people had been convinced exercise was beneficial. “Now the problem is not so much motivating people, but protecting them from exercising in ways that will be harmful,” he told The Blade in 1988. An article he wrote for Toledo Magazine in 1991, was headlined, “ ’No pain, no gain’ myth debunked.”
He was born Perry Brooke Johnson III on Feb. 15, 1931, in Washington to Esther and Perry B. Johnson, Jr. He was a graduate of Mount Rainier, Md., High School, where he played baseball, basketball, and soccer.
While working on his bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland, he taught and coached at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He received a master’s from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in exercise physiology and statistics from Michigan State University. He was an Army veteran.
He sang in the choir at Aldersgate United Methodist Church.
He was formerly married to Ann Johnson.
Surviving are his wife, Lisa Johnson, whom he married Aug. 9, 1980; son, Brad Johnson; daughter, Gail Berning; stepdaughter, Marla Pawlowicz; a grandson, and three stepgrandchildren.
Visitation will be from 3- 8 p.m. Sunday and after 1 p.m. Monday in the Reeb Funeral Home, Sylvania, where services will be at 1 p.m. Monday.
The family suggests tributes to Aldersgate United Methodist Church or caringbridge.org.
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