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Perry Johnson, 1931-2012: University of Toledo professor preached fitness


Perry Johnson


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 car­ing­

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