Oct 17, 2022
College of the Ozarks holds presidential inauguration Oct. 13, 2022
POINT LOOKOUT, MO. — College of the Ozarks hosted the presidential inauguration for Dr. Brad Johnson, the 17th president of the College, Oct. 13, 2022, in the Howell W. Keeter Athletic Complex.
College of the Ozarks has not held an inauguration ceremony in more than 40 years. To help commemorate this special moment, delegates from around the country attended the event. Speakers representing the students, staff, faculty, workstations, alumni, and School of the Ozarks extended special greetings to Johnson. Activities included a faculty luncheon and campus tours.
The inauguration began with an introductory welcome given by Dr. Eric Bolger, dean of the College, followed by the singing of the national anthem by the College of the Ozarks Chapel Choir. Speakers at the event included former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and pro-life activist Dr. Alveda King. Members of the community, Veterans, campus family, and students attended the ceremony.
Ashcroft lauded the College for taking a leadership role in society: “Thankfully, the College of the Ozarks and Christian institutions in higher education understand and teach that rights, responsibilities, and accountability transcend any human source,” Ashcroft said.
Several featured guests welcomed Johnson and highlighted their excitement for this new era for College of the Ozarks.
Dr. William Mahoney, president of Cox Medical Center Branson, spoke on the importance of community partnership.
“I am confident that Dr. Johnson and his family will make their mark yet hold tight to tradition, that pioneering and patriotic spirit that College of the Ozarks was founded upon,” Mahoney said.
Senior J.D. Kennedy, student body president and conservation and wildlife management major, welcomed the new president on behalf of the students. “In just the brief time that Dr. Johnson has been here, he has made evident his desire to protect the foundation that was set before him as well as his willingness to lead us in growth,” Kennedy said.
Following the greetings from staff, faculty, and alumni, Dr. Jerry C. Davis, who served the College as president for 34 years prior to Johnson, gave the chancellor’s greeting and assisted in presenting the presidential medallion.
“The challenge for Dr. Johnson, and in fact all of us, is to do our best to maintain College of the Ozarks as a lighthouse to the nation and not let it become a mirror reflecting what is going on in our culture,” Davis said.
The presidential address
After a time of prayer for the president and his family, Johnson issued his address as the 17th president of College of the Ozarks.
“Since our founding, God has chosen to use men and women in this distinctive brand of Christian higher education in this special place,” Johnson said. “From our earliest days, we have faced challenges and trials that have caused other institutions to close their doors and perhaps lose their way. But God has sustained us and provided for the rich educational experiences we know today as College of the Ozarks.”
He continued by speaking on the five pillars of the College and his vision to further extend each of these goals into the future during his time as president. With regard to the academic pillar, Johnson highlighted the unique mindset of College of the Ozarks.
“I have served at some fantastic places over my academic career, but never have I seen the same intentionality in integrating faith and learning,” Johnson said. “When it comes to faith integration, I see a day when we are the model for other Christian colleges around the world. Matthew 5:16 states, ‘Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven.’ In short, I see College of the Ozarks as a leading voice within the Christian College landscape for liberal arts professional programs that embody faith integration and a Christian worldview.”
The ceremony concluded with a performance by the College of the Ozarks Chapel Choir along with a benediction by Dr. Justin Carswell, vice president of Christian ministries and dean of the chapel. An ice cream reception followed for guests to congratulate and greet the newly inaugurated president and his family.
More about the transition
The College of the Ozarks Board of Trustees announced Johnson as the new leader of the institution last spring. His term began June 1, 2022. Johnson served from 2012 to 2022 as the vice president for institutional advancement at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri. He also served as interim president at the institution. In this role, he worked with the board to revise key institutional policies, engaged the board in discussion with the faculty of SBU, facilitated board training and restructuring, launched four new academic programs including agriculture, cybersecurity management, and global education for both elementary and middle school levels, developed a variety of new partnerships, and managed day-to-day operations of this multi-site institution.
Johnson is a Certified Fund-Raising Executive. He has raised more than $57 million in cash gifts and managed more than $41 million in estate gifts for SBU and Howard Payne University.
Johnson earned his Bachelor of Science degree in education from Baylor University in 1993. In 1996, he earned two master’s degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas: one in religious education and one in marriage and family counseling. He completed his Doctor of Education degree at Baylor University in 2005, with a focus on higher education administration.
Brad Johnson’s wife, Laura Lacey Johnson, is a commissioned fellow for the Colson Center for Christian worldview and shares her messages on Christian radio stations and social media outlets. She is a graduate of Howard Payne University and earned a Master of Arts in communication from Abilene Christian University. She worked as a radio personality and television news reporter in Texas. Dr. and Mrs. Johnson have two children, Evan and Elle.