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Life of former JU educator and Upward Bound founder Janet Johnson to be celebrated Jan. 18

The life of Janet Johnson, Jacksonville University’s first African-American professor and founder of its federally funded Upward Bound program, will be celebrated Saturday, Jan. 18, along with JU National TRIO Day.

Upward Bound at JU was the first TRIO program in Duval County and one of the first in the state.

JanetJohnsonJUphoto.jpgMrs. Johnson died Aug. 22, 2012, of congestive heart failure, at age 79. Her late husband, Earl Johnson Sr., the Jacksonville City Council’s first African-American president, was an adviser to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Their home was used for planning meetings with King in 1964 that also involved the Rev. Ralph Abernathy of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Andrew Young, who became mayor of Atlanta.

“Many of our alumni were not able to attend the funeral,” said Cecilia L. Severin, JU’s current Upward Bound Program Director. “There was much discussion about her time at Jacksonville University, about Upward Bound and about the times that Martin Luther King was at their home. I wished all of our students could have been present to hear this. Now, what began as a simple alumni gathering has grown into a major event.”

Tillis Q. DeVaughn, Program Manager for the Jacksonville Day Resource Center for the homeless, will act as host and moderator for the event, which is from 1 to 3 p.m. in JU’s Terry Concert Hall. Donations will be collected for the Janet Johnson Scholarship Fund at JU as well.

At the celebration, Mrs. Johnson’s two oldest children -- Earl Johnson Jr. and Robin Johnson -- will speak about her, and a eulogy written by JU Past President and Chancellor Dr. Frances Bartlett Kinne will be delivered. JU Upward Bound students will read stories collected from alumni and those who knew Mrs. Johnson. A reception for all JU Upward Bound, Student Support Services, Ronald E. McNair, Career Beginnings and TOPPS Graduates will follow.

Mrs. Johnson, a Columbus, Ga., native, earned a bachelor’s degree from Morris Brown College and a master’s degree in education from the University of Florida. She completed additional studies toward her doctorate in Education at UF. She was a Florida Times-Union EVE Award recipient, and at JU she was director of the TRiO programs, which included the Upward Bound Program and four other programs. During her 22 years as director, more than 1,400 students participated in it. She retired in 1999 after more than 30 years of service.

For more information about the celebration, contact Sylvia Cruz of JU Upward Bound at, (904) 256-7150.

Media contact: Phillip Milano, JU Director of News and Publications,, (904) 256-7042.

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