Dr. Neil Johnson Joins SUNY Potsdam Greats
POTSDAM, N.Y.—SUNY Potsdam Athletics Hall of Fame wrestling coach and administrator Dr. Neil Johnson was honored for his career at the College with a plaque in a ceremony this afternoon at Maxcy Hall. After words from Potsdam's President Kristin Esterberg, Director of Athletics Sharief Hashim and several others, Johnson's plaque was unveiled in front of the attendees, which included his wife Marilyn and nearly 20 of his wrestlers. Johnson was recruited by Bears Hall of Fame Athletic Director Dr. Sam Molnar to start Potsdam's wrestling program in 1963. He coached the Bears until 1987, seeing his program produce 12 individual SUNYAC Champions, the 1972-73 team conference champs and 13 All-Americans. In 1974, Johnson saw his team capture fourth place at the NCAA Division III Championships, led by Potsdam's first National Champ and eventual Hall of Famer, the late Rich Molbury. In 1976, Johnson helped guide future Hall of Famer and two-time All-American Tony Peraza '76 to the College's second NCAA title. Along the way, he also coached the soccer and tennis teams. Johnson didn't limit his campus and community contributions to coaching. He served on the P.A.C.E.S. Board of Directors for 20 years and was its chairman for nine. Johnson was a founder of the Potsdam Youth Soccer program. In 1987, he became the Director of Programs and Operations at Maxcy Hall. Three years later he took over as the Health and Physical Education Department Chair and served in both positions until he retired in 2000. Johnson was also instrumental in the creation of what is now the Shane T. Shaul Fitness Center. He developed the College's Wellness Council and established the Community Health, now Public Health, major. Johnson has received multiple other honors throughout his career, including the President's Award for Excellence in Public Service (1994), the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Professional Service (1996) and the Leadership Through Service Award (2007). He was inducted into the Bears Athletics Hall of Fame in 1997 and in 2011 he received the SUNYAC's Dr. Patrick Damore Distinguished Service Award. In retirement, Johnsonhelped form Stimulating Opportunities After Retirement, or S.O.A.R. The program allows local residents to come together and share their hobbies and talents. Since its start, S.O.A.R has grown to over 370 members and 50 classes, which are all taught by volunteers. S.O.A.R uses Potsdam facilities to conduct its courses and gives back to the college through donations, scholarships and other gifts. Johnson can also regularly be seen exercising in the fitness center, attending Bears games or assisting the athletic communications office in preserving Potsdam's athletic tradition. Johnson is the fourth Potsdam Athletics staff member to be honored with a plaque in Maxcy. The others include legendary administrator Dr. John W. Maxcy, Molnar and Hall of Fame basketball coach Jerry Welsh.