Volunteer Spotlight: Edith Johnson, Las Vegas Network


Edith Johnson

Q. What is your favorite experience as an Alumni Association leader/volunteer?

A. Volunteering is one way that I give back to the University of Minnesota, organizations and local people facing various situations in life. It is my heartfelt belief that we should always help each other.

Because food, water, warmth and rest are considered basic needs in life, I like volunteering in free meal programs where those needs are covered. Such programs serve the homeless, those who are down on their luck or have fallen on hard times in life. To warmly greet and present each client with a hot, healthy meal puts a good feeling in my heart. I say a silent prayer on arrival and departure.

Regarding my favorite experience as a leader, I really like the Geographical Council meetings, hearing from and getting useful and resourceful information from other leaders, having access to other leaders for follow up after our meetings and communicating with the helpful staff in the Minneapolis office. I also like to gather with fellow alumni to game watch, attend events, do happy hours, eat or whatever. In Las Vegas, I am always elated to meet University of Minnesota alumni. I know that we have some things in common.

GolfAlumni at U of M Women’s golf team event, Las VegasFurther and very important, I like letting people know about the University of Minnesota. I tell them to visit Minnesota and the University’s beautiful campus. I tell them how fortunate and proud I am to be a member of the alumni association.

The Las Vegas Chapter was started in 2014. It is the most recent Big 10 universities’ chapters in Las Vegas. After starting the Las Vegas Chapter I joined the Las Vegas Big 10 Universities Board of Directors. There I have met, learned from and appreciate alumni from the Big 10 universities. We have held picnics, golf tournaments, happy hours, game watches, etc. These events bring together Minnesota and other Big 10 alumni, families and friends.

Q. Why do you volunteer?

A. I believe it is my duty to volunteer. I also believe that volunteering can bring knowledge, experience, training, education, exploration, feeling and appreciation for people, places and things in life. We live on this beautiful earth and need to enjoy it in every way we can. And, in the process, do what we can to uplift our fellow man.
Watch PartyAlumni at Happy Hour, Las Vegas

I hope that in volunteering, I can inspire others to do the same. It takes a little of your time, effort and goodwill. The feeling and friendships encountered are priceless!

Q. Why would you encourage others to volunteer?

A. I would encourage others to volunteer so the future of volunteering and stability of the university’s alumni efforts can be as secure as possible. Each generation of students should increase and improve on today’s alumni efforts. We are in this together; we can do it. We need to communicate to current students the importance of volunteering and giving back to the university, as well as local communities and the country. We have no choice. The need is great.

Q. Share some alumni words of wisdom.

Big TenBig 10 Board of Directors at annual picnic, Las Vegas A. A few of my words of wisdom include the following:
-Never, ever give up.
-Don’t spend time trying to invent something new when there’s already something that works—just improve what’s there.
-From my grandfather: “It’s always better to have and not need than to need and not have.”
-From my parents: “There is no such word as “CAN’T; just do what needs to be done.”
-If you can’t find a job in your field of study, look elsewhere. Never limit your possibilities and opportunities in life.

More about Edith

I am a 1970’s era graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in Speech- Communication and concentrations in Journalism and Minority Studies. As a student, I worked part time as a Teaching Assistant to Dr. Anita Tucker and worked at the University of Minnesota Hospitals. I also worked full time at night during part of my years as a student. Further, I completed a Fashion Modeling certificate and worked modeling jobs, when I found time. I stayed very busy!

PicnicAlumni at Big 10 annual picnic, Las Vegas After graduation, I worked at a local television station. Later, I enrolled in Graduate School at Mankato State University. While there, I switched my major from Speech and Theater Arts to Urban and Regional Studies and was provided an internship in housing and redevelopment at the State’s Metropolitan Council. That internship landed me a full time position as Housing Manager for the City of Hopkins, MN, and I departed Graduate School. Afterward, I accepted a Housing Manager position at the City of Minneapolis, where I held various positions in private and public housing management, housing and real estate development, community planning and economic development, etc.

During my work history, I became active in volunteer or extracurricular work. I’ve been president of organizations, human rights commissioner, chairperson of loan committee, member of boards, speaker in schools, mentor for summer youth workers, volunteer at charitable organizations, volunteer in an alumni chapter, Sister City member and tourist, etc. Giving back to people, communities and the university is very important.

Alumni Gathering 12.8, Las VegasAlumni Gathering 12/8/17, Las Vegas In Minneapolis, I like visiting the beautiful alumni office and having discussions with its great staff. In Las Vegas, I like working and connecting with Minnesota alumni, their families and friends. Alumni who reside and work in Las Vegas are great local resources, and we enjoy gathering for game watches and other events. It is always a joy to be in their presence.

I did early retirement and divide my living arrangements between Nevada and Minnesota. It’s great so far!

I thank my parents and grandparents who relentlessly pushed and supported me and my siblings in higher education after graduating high school. I thank those in my hometown of Natchez, MS, for being caring, supportive and hardworking citizens who helped children in their quest for a better life than their predecessors. The citizens included those in our segregated schools, neighborhoods and churches. I am thankful and blessed to have had them in my life. They will always be part of my life’s unique story.

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